City implements changes after May drowning in Tempe Town Lake

Aug 22, 2022, 4:45 AM

Sean Bickings, 34, died on May 28 after drowning in Tempe Town Lake  shortly after police discovere...

Sean Bickings, 34, died on May 28 after drowning in Tempe Town Lake shortly after police discovered there were three outstanding warrants against him. (City of Tempe Photo)

(City of Tempe Photo)

PHOENIX — Following the drowning of a man in Tempe Town Lake a few months ago, the city made changes to how it responds to crises and how to connect people with barriers to services that can aid in ending their homelessness.

“Tragic events can prompt genuine reflection,” City Manager Andrew Ching said in a press release.

“Tempe is a caring, compassionate community, and we take seriously the responsibility to examine our approaches and transform after devastating events.”

The changes range from the addition of water rescue rings around Tempe Town and Kiwanis lakes this fall, a new warrant resolution program and training for police officers on how to use water rescue throw bags.

The department is making a rescue policy modeled on cities with major bodies of water, which is expected to be completed before the end of summer, city officials said.

Sean Bickings, 34 and unsheltered, climbed over a 4-foot metal fence and entered into the lake while police were conducting a background check and found three outstanding warrants.

Bickings asked officers for help and told them he was drowning, but he went under water and his body was found hours later, according to a transcript.

A warrant resolution program is being created to connect people to services by helping address court matters, outstanding fines and fees, and suspended driver’s licenses.

The city is working to make the program available through outreach events or at the court Monday through Friday from 9 a.m.- 11:30 a.m. during open walk-in docket hours.

Changes were also made to how calls involving homelessness, homicide, domestic violence and sexual abuse were responded to.

Now, an automatic co-response of CARE 7, the city’s crisis response team, to those calls will be the new model.

A Scottsdale Police Department investigation of the incident determined the officers shouldn’t have attempted a rescue by jumping into water, citing lack of training and proper equipment to complete a rescue.

The three officers who responded to the May 28 call are back on duty following paid administrative leave since the incident.

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City implements changes after May drowning in Tempe Town Lake