PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - A former legal advisor to the Phoenix Police Department says there is likely more to the story, as far as what led to a controversial confrontation between police and a family suspected of shoplifting.
Cellphone video captured by witnesses shows police using foul language and threatening to shoot Dravon Ames and Iesha Harper, while their young children were present. The couple's 4-year-old daughter was caught on security video, walking out of a Family Dollar store without paying for a doll.
The police report states that the couple did not stop their vehicle when ordered to do so by police. Officers caught up with the family at an apartment complex parking lot, which is where the cell video was taken.
[VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED: Phoenix police officers under investigation for alleged misconduct]
"When I saw the video, my heart sank because and it sank because I wasn't out there and I didn't know all the facts. And I wanted to know, so badly, what was it that got you (the officers) to that point? What occurred that created that fear that you needed to draw your weapon? And I don't know to this day because I haven't heard their side," said Gerald Richard, who is an attorney, pastor and former legal advisor to the Phoenix Police Department.
[ORIGINAL STORY: Phoenix police investigating after officers accused of misconduct]
Richard was also on the team that the U.S. Department of Justice hired to complete an after-action assessment of what happened in Ferguson, Missouri, after an 18-year-old African American man named Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer.
"I saw the aftermath of what happened in Ferguson. And it broke my heart," said Richard.
He tells Arizona's Family that he believes the Phoenix Police Department and City of Phoenix leaders are taking steps in the right direction to ease the tensions that the incident caused.
On Tuesday night, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and Police Chief Jeri Williams organized a community forum and listened as speaker after speaker criticized the police department for its treatment of people of color. Both Ames and Harper are African American.
"This city is still a city where we can come together and talk through the issues, that we do not revert to violence and riots," said Richard.
One of the steps he believes the police department needs to take is to reinstate a program that was in place in the early 2000s which was meant to identify officers who may need counseling or who were otherwise at risk of unprofessional behavior.
"All we have to do is get back to the basics and continue to work through the issues that we currently have, to implement the early warning system to identify those officers that maybe this is not the line of work for, or post traumatic stress has gotten them to a level where maybe it's time to step away, or to get some assistance," said Richard.
[SPECIAL SECTION: Phoenix Police Misconduct Allegations]
A spokesperson for the Phoenix Police Department told Arizona's Family that the department does have a similar program in place today.