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After drowning, Tempe police to now carry water rescue bags

All Tempe police officers will now carry water rescue throw bags. They have already received training on how to use them.

TEMPE, Ariz. — The City of Tempe is implementing new rescue procedures and equipment months after video showed officers doing nothing as a homeless man, Sean Bickings, drowned in a city lake.

City officials announced Friday that all Tempe police officers in the field will carry water rescue throw bags. They have already received training on how to use them.

Also, water rescue rings attached to 100-foot (30-meter) ropes will be installed this fall around Tempe Town Lake, where the drowning occurred.

"We don't want to lose another life over something as tragic as this," Tempe Police Chief Jeff Glover said.

Tempe plans to create a program to help unsheltered people deal with some arrest warrants and other barriers some people in the homeless community face. 

"If we don't act and learn lessons from it, then I think we'd be remiss," Andrew Ching, Tempe City Manager, said.

“I think it’s tragic that it takes a tragedy to force change." Ben Jeffery said. 

Jeffery used to be homeless but is now an advocate for the community. He was also Sean Bickings' friend. 

“There are a lot of people in Tempe who are unsheltered, and there are a lot of people who have a variety of issues. And those issues are complex and diverse. The city of Tempe needs to learn how to absorb the entire problem, not just pieces of it," Jeffery said.

An outcry erupted after Tempe police released edited body camera videos and a transcript from the May 28 death of Sean Bickings.

RELATED: Redacted videos show Tempe officers' reaction after man drowns in front of them

RELATED: 'Blowing smoke': Protesters criticize Tempe councilmembers decision to unfreeze police positions after Bickings drowning

The video shows the 34-year-old man climb over a 4-foot fence along the lake and start swimming.

The transcript shows two officers repeatedly told Bickings to swim to a pylon and “hold on.” Bickings continuously pleaded for help but an officer said he would not go into the water.

The local officers' union said officers are not trained to do water rescues.

An investigation led by the Scottsdale Police Department determined the three officers present acted properly. They have since returned to duty after being on paid administrative leave.

A medical examiner's report shows Bickings' primary cause of death was drowning and a contributory cause of death was methamphetamine intoxication


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