Dec. 3, 2006 — -- An investigation is underway in Tempe, Ariz., after a police officer told two African American men they could avoid getting a ticket if they performed a rap for him.
The incident was played out on a reality show produced by the local police force. It was supposed to highlight the department's philosophy of community policing, but has instead sparked controversy.
In the clip, an officer pulls over two African American men on charges of littering. He offers them a way out of the ticket, saying, "No littering ticket if the two of you just do a little rap."
The men, neither of whom are actors, agree. One of them rhymes, "The dangers of littering you will get a ticket. If you ain't with it, you better be experienced."
The rap was just the beginning. Before leaving, the officer says, "You know why you say I'm right? Because I've got a gun and a badge. I'm always right."
Many community leaders have been quick to condemn the reality show.
"That officer played into the worst stereotypes in terms of the African American community and law enforcement," said the Rev. Jarett Maupin, president of the Arizona chapter of the National Action Network.
The city has launched an investigation and has taken the program off the air.
On Sunday's "Good Morning America," Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman asserted that the video and the police officer's behavior were completely unacceptable and offered an apology to everyone in his town.
"We take full responsibility for this video," Hallman said. "We have to determine, for a variety of reasons, how this happened. The fact is, though, we're talking about a veteran officer who served for 25 years and has an excellent record. We're going to take it seriously and address it correctly."
But not everyone is outraged.
"It's about bonding with the community in which you serve, and I think that's exactly what this officer was trying to do," said Rod Wheeler, an African American and a former detective with the Washington, D.C. police department. "I don't think they're trying to be offensive in any kind of way."
The two young men featured in the controversial footage have yet to come forward. According to the local NAACP president, the Rev. Oscar Tillman, they're probably mortified.
"They were humiliated and maybe felt there was nothing they could do about it," Tillman said.