It recently came to light that a fired policeman who brazenly shot and killed a crying, crawling father of two as he begged for his life, was briefly reinstated so that he could receive a comfortable disability pension at taxpayer expense. Even more astonishing is the fact that Philip Mitchell Brailsford used the shooting itself as justification for his claim, declaring that he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his own cold-blooded deed.
Death in the Desert
Daniel Shaver, a 26-year-old father of two young children, was staying at a Mesa, AZ, hotel while on business in January 2016. A pest-control worker, he showed two other hotel guests the air rifle he used to exterminate birds in grocery stores. Other hotel occupants said they saw him point what appeared to be a gun out the window of his hotel room and called the police.
What followed when officers arrived remains thoroughly shocking to this day. Americans across the nation were horrified and deeply angered by what is widely regarded to be one of the worst unnecessary shootings by a police officer ever recorded on video.
An officer heard in the footage shouting confusing and contradictory commands to a clearly terrified Shaver is not Brailsford but Sgt. Charles Langley. Langley quickly retired four months after the killing and moved to the safe haven of the Philippines, where he will be free from public scorn. Brailsford was charged with murder and acquitted, despite the damning video evidence against him.
He was fired from his job as a police officer for violating department policies. One such violation involved his having the phrase “You’re f***ed” inscribed on the dust cover of the police-issued AR-15 rifle that he used to kill Shaver. So much for “protect and serve.”
No Respect For the People
Here’s where government employees can be accused of providing cover for one of their own. Having been fired, Brailsford could not apply for a disability pension. So the disgraced ex-cop, who was let go for cause and whose improper conduct, to say the least, may end up costing the town of Mesa tens of millions of dollars in legal liabilities, was reinstated temporarily for 42 days in August 2018 for the express purpose of allowing him to apply for his disability claim.
The Mesa Public Safety Personnel Retirement System then unanimously approved his application on October 8. Brailsford will receive more than $2,500 a month, or roughly $31,000 a year, for the rest of his life. Only 28 years old, he stands to collect this tidy sum, plus regular cost of living adjustments, for a possible 50+ years.
Why would local government officials in Mesa bend over backward to set up for life a demonstrable failure of a police officer who literally brought international shame onto their town with his inexcusable actions? One possible explanation is a growing “us vs. them” dichotomy between employees of the state and the citizens they ostensibly serve. Warped by the certain expectation of endless impersonal revenue streams from faceless taxpayers, government officials of all levels have with each passing year seemed to become more remote from the people who inhabit the communities that provide them with their comfortable careers.
This highly dangerous state of affairs has been decades in the making. With the increasing erosion of towns and cities that were once places where neighbors shared close ties, to what now seem to be anonymous tax zones, it was simply inevitable that local government would become divorced from the citizenry at large. This sadly includes policing as well.
I have this distinct memory from 30-odd years ago, when I was in college, of reading a conservative pundit who I admired take a local police department to task for shutting down major highways around a fairly large city in order to clear a path for the funeral procession of a cop killed in the line of duty. He saw something anti-social in the act. I remember thinking, “Whoa, that’s a bit harsh. We should honor this officer for his grave sacrifice.” But the commentator stated that he feared such extraordinary measures threatened to lead to an unhealthy mentality among police officers. He warned that they might no longer see themselves as a part of the communities they served; that they would become removed from or even feel above the common citizenry. Thirty years ago, that seemed like an overreaction to a young college student. Now, it is clear as day that the prediction was nothing short of prescient.
A police department that understood the public demand for accountability to its local citizens would never have tolerated the shenanigans going on in Mesa. As soon as that video went public, strong efforts would have been made to strip Sgt. Langley of his pension over the out-of-control vocal commands that directly led to the execution of a completely innocent person. And Brailsford, spared of a long prison sentence, would have been completely ostracized by all public figures.
That the exact opposite has happened is a stark warning that citizens should tread carefully in their interactions with government officials at all levels today. We are not seen as their bosses or even as their neighbors. Far from it. We are an antagonistic “other” to them. Failure to understand this reality can cost your freedom or even your life.