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On May 28, 2022, the life of Sean Bickings, a 34-year-old Black man, was taken because police officers refused to do their job. 

The incident unraveled when Tempe Police in Arizona received a call about domestic violence between Bickings and his wife by the Tempe Center for the Arts, located near the bridge.  

When officials arrived at the scene, they first spoke with Bickings’ wife about the domestic violence, and she denied the allegations of any physical altercation between the two. Next, the officers came to Bickings about the incident, and he also opposed anything happening.

After both dismissed the allegations, the three officials began running their names through a database, used to indicate if people have eminent arrest warrants. They claimed it was standard procedure.

At about 5:12am, Bickings climbed over a 4-foot metal fence to get into the water, asking the officers, “I’m going to go for a swim. I’m free to go, right?” and an officer replies, “You can’t swim in the lake, man.” One officer said to another, “How far do you think he’s going to be able to swim?” One officer told the other two to “keep an eye” on Bickings, while he left the area. 

Bodycam: Tempe Police Officers refuse to aid drowning Black man

In the bodycam, provided to Fox 10 Phoenix, they capture the encounter the officers had with Bickings, along with the moments leading up to the drowning.

Temple Police released a transcript of the conversation between an officer, identified as “Officer 1” and Bickings, in which he told Bickings that he won’t be going to save him.

“I’m going to drown. I’m going to drown,” Bickings told the officers. 

“No you’re not, come back over to the pylon,” said “Officer 2” in the transcript. 

“I can’t. I can’t.” stated Bickings.

“OK, I’m not jumping in after you,” said Officer 1.

“Please help me. Please, please, please.” Bickings begged the officers for their assistance.

Watching Bickings struggle helplessly, the officer claimed that they were following their training. They were seeing him drown, knowing they had all the power to prevent him from dying. 

Witnessing her husband drown in front of her eyes, Bickings’ wife pleads to the officers to go save her husband, but they threaten to detain her saying, “If you don’t calm down, I’m going to put you in my car.” The officers also told the wife to “chill out.”

How can she calm down when the love of her life is dying and the police are refusing to save him?

Officers placed on paid leave after drowning death

Bickings told the officers, “I’m just distraught because he’s drowning right in front of you and you won’t help.” Since the police would not save her husband, she attempted to do it herself, by going in the lake to get him, but police stopped her.

As Tempe police officers, it is their job to protect and ensure the safety of all citizens. After hearing that Bickings was in distress, the police officers watched him suffer and fight for his life above water. The officers who are supposed to protect us watched an innocent black man drown.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), studies prove that racial and ethnic disparities are connected with drowning deaths. Between 1999 and 2010, data collected identified that Black people under the age of 29 were 1.4 times more likely to die from drowning than a white person. 

At 11:30 a.m. that morning, Bickings’ body was pulled from the water. Tempe Fire’s Dive and Rescue team found him by Tempe Town Lake, near the Tempe Center of Arts. He was pronounced dead at the scene. 

Following the death of Bickings, citizens were outraged at the lack of response by the Tempe Police, requesting DPS and Scottsdale police to analyze the police’s response to his drowning. 

After further examination, “The three Temple police officers who responded to the call and witnessed the drowning have been placed on non-disciplinary paid administrative leave pending the investigations, as is customary in critical incidents.”

Despite the officers’ refusal to save Bickings, they are still put on paid leave. Although police officers have the power to prevent a death, they refused to help, and still managed to receive minimum consequences for their lack of involvement.

Hello, my name is Sydney Anderson and I am from the Bronx, New York. I am a junior at Delaware State University, majoring in mass communications with a concentration in convergence journalism. At DSU,...

10 replies on ““I’m Not Jumping In After You”, officer told drowning Black Man”

  1. Let’s see. If they jump in and try to rescue him, he could pull them down thus risking the policemen’s lives. I THINK NOT.

  2. First of all, why did he jump in?? That was his, and only his decision. Second, why has this story turned into a racial thing? Thirdly, were the police supposed to jump in with their uniform on and expect to stay afloat? Even if they weren’t in uniform, did they have any flotation devise to save the man? Wouldn’t he pull them under as well? Why is the media assuming the police could even swim? Is it racist to assume all white people can swim?

  3. Every comment , is correct .. The couple denied any ; hostility towards one another . ….. This situation is not racial at all . Huge difference in this situation . If the. Police would have grabbed him ” before hand . There probably would have been a struggle , and escalation .

  4. What commenters don’t know is that two weeks earlier Tempe BOASTED about saving a drowning DOG from the canal so their excuses ring rather hollow.

  5. Why let the husband jump in but NOT the wife? If they’re so concerned over the wife’s safety that threatening her with detention to prevent her from saving her dying husband is justifiable (to them), why didn’t they stop the husband out of concern for HIS safety? So much for “protect and serve.” But, of course, the US Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that police have no constitutional duty to protect a person. That’s the law of the land, contrary to the hollow words of many law enforcement departments. So it’s up to individual officers’ discretion whom to help or save. Many of the comments on this story smack of the typical US oblique bias that masquerades as “common sense.” Police get away with what they do because enough of the public support their actions. And then paid leave at tax-payers’ expense? SMH.

  6. This “journalist” has the journalistic talent of a 5th grade special ed student. Literally turned the piece into her own rant. At what point did journalism turn into a mode of opinions and suggestions versus facts only? Here’s a question, if the police are so racist why not just let her jump in with him and they both drown? Should we just take for fact that this situation played out exactly how the writer is describing it to be especially when it’s filled with soooo much “actual journalism”? What’s scary is that she is in a university majoring in this field. I’d expect more requirement from the university and this is what you get from the Bronx NY these days. Signed a man from Brooklyn NY.

    1. Your attempt to degrade my intelligence has failed, as I have achieved more in the past two months than you have in your entire career. From doing interviews with CBS, CNN, NBC News, ABC News, USA Today, New York Times, to being on the Don Lemon show, it is evident that my future is bright. While you are sitting at home aiming to belittle me from behind a screen, I am improving by the day. From one New Yorker to another, get it together sir.

  7. I honestly don’t know why so many black people can’t swim. You would think the percentage would be similar regardless of race. But it’s pretty much the parents’ responsibility to teach the kids to swim. If parents can’t swim they obviously can’t teach the kids directly themselves. And coastal regions etc. might have higher percentage. My friend who is a 5-year Army veteran can’t swim. Fuk, even the US military doesn’t require knowing how to swim to be important. I feel like, screw everything you learn in school if you can’t swim in the end, and literally all other organisms can naturally float or swim. The teaching-your-kids to swim responsibility is seemingly a huge problem within black communities. The cops may have been wrong, depending on all the details of the situation, but not being able to swim or flat for at least a few minutes I feel like he died because his parents failed to teach him to swim. We teach our kids thousands of things all the freaking time. And the world is 70% water and only those who are never taught can die in an environment that all or lifeforms can survive in, at least for a short time. This problem only effects humans no other animal even needs to be taught. Drop the squirrel in water the first time and bam! it learns how to swim without being taught. This article is definitely upsetting regardless. But if anyone takes anything from it at all, enroll in a swimming class yourself, or sign the kids up if that’s what it takes. The takeaway from this article is for readers to LEARN TO SWIM moving forward. We don’t have superpowers; we definitely don’t need to raise children to grow up and have a super weakness.

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