TEMPE, Ariz – City leaders have apologized after a program on Tempe's cable channel showed a white police officer telling two black men they could get out of a littering ticket by performing a rap.
Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman and Police Chief Tom Ryff apologized for the show Thursday and suspended its future production after black community leaders voiced outrage and disappointment.
"I accept responsibility for the actions of my staff and apologize to any members of our community who have been offended," Ryff said during a news conference Friday.
The segment appeared on "Tempe StreetBeat," a program produced by police in the Phoenix suburb that followed several officers on patrol. It shows Sgt. Chuck Schoville pulling over two men in August in a mall parking lot.
He first asks for a name and ID from the driver and then asks the two men if they know how much the fine is for littering.
The officer then tells the men that they can avoid getting a littering ticket "if the two of you just do a little rap about — what do you want to do a rap about? Littering? About the dangers of littering."
The two men agree, and each performs a short rap, laughing afterward. One says, "The dangers of littering, you will get a ticket. If you ain't wit' it, you better be experienced."
The second man raps, "Yo, I just got pulled over 'cause I threw my trash out the window when they rolled over. They got behind me and pulled me over."
Later, Schoville talks football with the men, one of whom agrees with his prediction that the Oakland Raiders will make it to the Super Bowl this year.
Schoville then says, "You know why you say I'm right? Because I got a gun and badge. I'm always right. That's the way it works, right?" The three laugh and the two men get in their car.
Leaders of chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the National Action Network expressed outrage and demanded that the city act.
The Rev. Jarrett Maupin of the National Action Network, who was at Friday's news conference, said he had accepted Hallman's and Ryff's apologies and intends to make sure the police department makes good on a proposal for an African American advisory board and increased diversity training.
"It's important for police officers to realize that black people do not speak hip hop," Maupin said. "We're not all rappers and thugs and gangbangers. We speak the English language and we're entitled to the same amount of respect."
Ryff said the department is investigating how the video got on the air, who watched it and who edited it. He wouldn't discuss whether there would be any punishment for those involved.
The chief said that he hadn't been able to contact Schoville, a 25-year veteran of the Tempe force, because the officer is on vacation. A message was left with the department seeking comment from the sergeant.
Because the men in the video were not cited, Tempe police had no record of their names.