Bombs Away

A supervisory cop's bust for driving a giant police truck to golf games sparks claims of unequal discipline in the Phoenix PD

In the incident report, DeBenedetto states he told Mount the next day that, as Mount's supervisor, he'd launch an investigation into the vehicle's misuse.

But the investigation didn't begin until March 27, a few days after the arrest of a suspect in the burglary and the recovery of some of Mount's equipment. DeBenedetto's supervisor, Commander Jeff Halstead, says one reason for the delay was that he had to resolve the matter of DeBenedetto's possible conflict of interest.

"I thought Mike had to have knowledge of this incident [and] therefore, he is guilty of violating policy and guilty of misconduct as well," Halstead says. "Once I confirmed that Mike did not have any advance knowledge that Chuck Mount did this, then he could conduct the investigation."

Matt Mignanelli

Halstead's alleged confirmation, however, leaves much to be desired.

"I did ask the lieutenant, 'At any time in the past, have you noticed Chuck showing up in a city vehicle?' and he said, 'No, he always brings his personal car,'" Halstead says.

Halstead discussed the issue with his boss, Assistant Chief William Louis, who agreed with Halstead that DeBenedetto should be allowed to investigate Mount.

Yet, as Mount confirms, Mount didn't always bring his personal car. Sometimes he brought the F-350.

DeBenedetto did not return phone calls for this story.

During his talk with DeBenedetto, Halstead says, the lieutenant told him it was made clear to the would-be golfers years ago, before the first game, that department vehicles were not to be parked at the course.

Mount says he could have parked the truck at a nearby city facility and had someone shuttle him over. But he didn't do that. Even less convenient was taking the truck back home and switching to his personal car, which would have left too little time to play golf.

DeBenedetto must have, at least, wondered how Mount managed to always find time for the games. Putting DeBenedetto in charge of investigating Mount ensured DeBenedetto would face no hard questions about his own behavior.

Perhaps because Mount was taking one for the team, DeBenedetto asked his bosses to forget about the standard punishment in the case. Mount was a valued, longtime employee who had never gotten in trouble before. Everyone agreed Mount could skate.

The punishment dictated for misuse of a vehicle by the department's ominous-sounding "discipline matrix" is a written reprimand, which hangs over an employee's head for three years. During that time, any further violations — however minor — are punished more severely. Mount got a less-serious supervisor's counseling, which only stays in his file one year.

Halstead says this punishment was in line with two recent cases of misused vehicles in which the offenders received supervisory counseling. But his point is lost because the punishments were an accident. Halstead admits the two officers should have received written reprimands, but didn't, only because of bureaucratic bungling.

But Halstead recalled that a detective who was caught using his vehicle off-duty in 2005 received the written reprimand.

Spencer, the union representative, says he was recently rebuffed by Phoenix PD management while trying to help a fellow officer. Officer Grant Razon had left a suspect's cell phone and wallet on the hood of his squad car, then drove the suspect to jail and forgot the items. The wallet was lost, the cell phone crushed. Spencer wrote a letter to police higher-ups in November asking them to give Razon counseling instead of a written reprimand. Razon, a two-year employee at the time with no discipline on his record, got the written reprimand.

The disparate treatment is chafing some members of the union, which saw a regime change earlier this summer when Spencer booted out a former union president who had been accused of being too chummy with the police department's upper management. However, if the Mount case is a major example of double standards at Phoenix PD, perhaps the union needs to re-evaluate its definition of corruption.

As for Mount, he seems to have learned his lesson.

"If I want to golf when I get off work, I have to make arrangements to make someone pick me up in their personal vehicle," he says. "So us going out on Tuesdays doesn't happen anymore."

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