INTERNAL AFFAIRS

BEATEN, BADGERED AND BRUISED. WHERE CAN PHOENIX BLACKS AVENGE POLICE BRUTALITY?

"Officer Kobelka said motel policy did not allow potential troublemakers on the property," wrote Sergeant Carufel.

From his home outside Los Angeles, McCree denied that he intended to make trouble.

"After we told them we were registered and showed them the key, the cops continued to badger us," said McCree. "I said, `We don't have to put up with this bullshit,' and I turned away from them and started to walk towards our room. That's when Kobelka jumped me. I fell to the ground. The other cop, Keehl, began kicking me in the head."

In his report, Sergeant Carufel noted that Keehl admitted punching McCree but was less sure about the head-stomping.

"Officer Keehl mentioned he does not remember intentionally kicking complainant McCree. He said it was possible, however, that complainant McCree could have been stepped on during the struggle."

Informed of the details of the McCree incident, Reverend Tillman just shook his head.

"You see, this is exactly what my criticism is about. Why was that officer allowed to even be working off-duty?" asked Tillman.

Of course, Reverend Tillman's criticism of the police department's oversight of moonlighting officers such as Kobelka enjoys the perfect perspective of hindsight.

Yet Chief Ortega's own files contain the records of Officer Lance Gibson's statements regarding Kobelka's propensity for overreaction.

On June 15, 1980, Kobelka and his then-partner, Officer A.L. Smith, stopped a couple they suspected of smoking marijuana.

When Kobelka ordered 21-year-old suspect Paul Abbott to empty his pockets, the young man took off running and shouted, according to Kobelka, "Leave me alone, asshole."

Other officers joined in the three-block pursuit. Officer Lance Gibson caught up with Abbott just as the suspect declared, "I give up, man, I give up."

Officer Gibson instructed Abbott to turn and grab the nearby fence and spread his legs, which the young man did.

At that point, Officer Kobelka arrived on the scene, running.
According to Gibson's report, Kobelka said, "So, I'm an asshole, am I?" and then grabbed the suspect in a choke hold.

As other officers gathered on the scene, witnesses say Officer Gibson began to shout, "Jesus, Ron, there's no need for this," "That's not necessary, you're being brutal," and "Calm down, you guys, you don't have to do that."

Officer Gibson was adamant that the suspect had surrendered and offered no resistance, and that Kobelka was simply livid.

"Up to this point [the application of the choke hold], the suspect had not said anything abusive to me or Officer Kobelka and had not offered any resistance whatsoever," wrote Gibson in his report.

As Abbott was being strangled, Gibson, though alarmed, nonetheless grabbed the suspect's free arm.

"During this time, the suspect was saying, `I give up, I give up,' over and over. This was not very audible as the suspect was still being choked," reported Gibson. "However, I could hear him clearly. In just an instant, the suspect began to crumble under the effects of the choke hold . . . . At no time did the suspect offer any resistance to me prior to Officer Kobelka grabbing him from the position in which I had him. And even after Kobelka grabbed the suspect, the suspect was free to kick and thrash about, which he did not. The suspect was in my custody, assuming the search position and would have been searched and cuffed per policy, without incident, if Officer Kobelka had not interfered."

Gibson was compelled to file his report as part of an official investigation into the incident when fellow officers complained that Gibson was not ®MD120¯vigorous enough in arresting Abbott.

Gibson was absolved of any wrongdoing, with investigator Sergeant Joseph J. Hauer noting, "Officer Gibson is a very aggressive officer who has been counseled in the past for coming on too strong in citizen contacts."

Though his name was cleared, Gibson discovered that his protestations over the brutality of his colleagues carried consequences beyond the investigation.

Sergeant Hauer recommended that Officer Gibson "be transferred to another district. Because of this incident, there are hard feelings toward Gibson by squad/shift members."

As for Kobelka, "because of his willful and deliberate mistreatment of a citizen," it was recommended that he be sent to the Disciplinary Review Board. Supervisor Bennie Click, now an assistant chief on Ortega's staff, concurred.

Despite such documentation of Kobelka's problems, despite the department's unsuccessful attempts to fire Kobelka for excessive use of force, police administrators nevertheless approved Kobelka's four years of moonlighting before he was finally terminated over his atttack on McCree.

Kobelka's off-duty partner during the beating at the motel parking lot, Officer Keehl, was asked last fall if Ambrose McCree ever punched or kicked either officer.

"We didn't give him the opportunity," replied Keehl.
The police department did not significantly discipline Officer Keehl. With merely a reprimand in his file, Officer Keehl is still eligible to moonlight.

When the Phoenix Police Department finally managed to terminate Officer Kobelka in the wake of the McCree incident, the city's confidential Separation Notice stated: "There have been fifteen documented complaints, most of which involve undue force, improper arrest, unprofessional conduct, and improper use of police authority . . . ."

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