Every year, cities pay out millions of dollars to settle the many thousands of lawsuits that are filed for cases of police brutality. According to the Wall Street Journal, billions are paid out each year to resolve issues of police misconduct.
In a time where police are facing additional scrutiny across the country, the UK’s The Guardian reports that an officer with the Phoenix Police Department is being accused of brutally assaulting a woman during a minor traffic stop in January.
The case alleges that on January 17th, 23-year-old Mariah Valenzuela was pulled over by Officer Michael McGillis immediately after she went to pick up a takeout order.
Based on bodycam footage obtained by the paper, Officer McGillis did not tell Valenzuela why he pulled her over. Just moments after informing the officer that she did not have her driver’s license or ID on her, Officer McGillis grabbed the young woman, slammed her onto the pavement, and ordered her to put her hands behind her back. The incident left Valenzuela with injuries to her head, face, arms, and legs.
Valenzuela was arrested on the charges of resisting arrest, creating a substantial risk of physical injury to an officer and DUI. Court records indicate that a breathalyzer test administered to Valenzuela showed a blood-alcohol level well below 0.08 percent at the time of her arrest.
Additional footage reveals a second officer telling McGillis to “cover your ass” when filing his police report.
Civil rights advocates say that records indicate that the Phoenix Police Department has one of the highest rates of police shootings and killings of civilians. According to the report, officers are rarely held to account for use of excessive force or for falsifying official police reports.
Valenzuela’s attorney, James Palestini, told the Guardian that his client’s arrest for the alleged charges was egregious, especially when McGillis’ bodycam video is taken into account.
On Monday, July 20th, Valenzuela’s attorneys filed a civil complaint against Officer McGillis and the Phoenix Police Department for false arrest and imprisonment.