Cop Chop

Political squabbling could end the careers of two veteran police officers

In the August 8 interview, Bill Heath of the County Attorney's Office suggested Cope let the situation with Chandler occur because he was trying to embarrass Soto and the County Attorney's Office.

"Our goal out there isn't to embarrass each other," Cope replied. "It's to put drug dealers away."

Cope agreed to take another non-enforcement position within the drug unit and await the outcome of the DPS investigation. Police officials won't say whether Cope will be given another enforcement position once the DPS inquiry is finished.

Lotstein said last week the county attorney's unhappiness with Cope is "less definitive" -- more a feeling that Romley's office doesn't want to work with the veteran drug officer anymore rather than a problem with the officer's integrity. Romley told Chief Harold Hurtt that, even though he is satisfied with Cope's transfer to another assignment, he will await the outcome of the DPS investigation before deciding whether to "Brady List" Cope. FitzGerald, Romley's spokesman, said earlier this week that is still Romley's position on Cope.

Hurtt and Acting Chandler Chief Dave Neuman declined to be interviewed for this story. Phoenix police spokesman Sergeant Randy Force says he hasn't seen the materials provided by the County Attorney's Office and couldn't comment on the specific problems involving Cope. He notes that cops often have strong personalities and that it's not unusual to have personality conflicts.

"But we work through those conflicts and do our jobs as cops, which is to lock up the bad guys," Force says.

Chandler officials are guardedly critical of Romley in their letters to him over the matter, reiterating their desire to maintain a good working relationship with the county prosecutor.

Still, O'Neill calls Romley's actions against the officers "troubling."

"Please consider your insistence on using a Brady Letter prior to an independent investigation into this matter may give the perception of punishing any law enforcement officer who discovers information during an investigation that might indicate misconduct on the part of one of your investigators," O'Neill wrote.

And Romley's "Brady File" is already large -- and secret. Bill FitzGerald says there are about 50 officers from various police agencies in the file. But he won't say who they are or what they did to warrant a "Brady Letter."

Despite the fact that the letters are routinely handed out to defense attorneys, the County Attorney's Office won't release any information from the file -- including a list of the officers in the file or what other types of actions have generated "Brady Letters" -- unless the police agencies agree the information should be made public.

E-mail patti.epler@newtimes.com, or call 602-229-8451.

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