Phoenix Councilman Demands That Plagiarizing ASU Professor Return Money to City

Phoenix Councilman Demands That Plagiarizing ASU Professor Return Money to City

Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio is demanding that a plagiarizing Arizona State University professor return money the city paid him for material he submitted for an anti-bias training program for police.

DiCiccio says Matthew Whittaker's firm, The Whitaker Group, was paid $21,800 by the city after Whitaker sent invoices for the time it took him to prepare the material for mandatory classes to be taken by the Phoenix Police Department's roughly 3,000 officers.

Whitaker vigorously denied DiCiccio's accusations this afternoon. (See below.)

DiCiccio released a slide-by-slide comparison of a Powerpoint-style presentation that Whitaker prepared for the training, which DiCiccio says the history professor plagiarized from a Chicago Police Department cultural-training program. DiCiccio's office also released invoices and e-mails between Whitaker and city officials.

This is not the first plagiarism claim against Whitaker. 

New Times reported on July 10 that Whitaker was demoted by ASU before a preliminary investigation by two professors revealed that he had plagiarized from common Internet sources for his new book, Peace Be Still, Modern Black America From World War 2 to Barack Obama. He's now an associate professor and was made co-director, instead of director, of ASU's Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, which he founded.

ASU still pays Whitaker $154,000 a year..

The ASU plagiarism revelation followed an allegation from 2011-12, in which he was accused of using material without attribution in a speech and writings. An ASU investigation cleared him in the case, finding "no compelling evidence of intent to deceive." 

ASU decided not to conduct a full review of Whitaker's book, still not available from its publisher, the University of Nebraska Press.

Whitaker won a $268,000 contract from the Phoenix PD for anti-bias training just weeks before his ASU demotion. Hearing about Whitaker's demotion and the latest plagiarism claim further angered some council members, including DiCiccio, who were already bitter that Whitaker was teaching classes before the council's approval of the program.

The classes were taught in April and May to some of the force's officers before a summer break. They were supposed to resume this month. However, DiCiccio kept up the pressure and Whitaker quit his contract — but not before the city paid him the $21,800, according to DiCiccio.. 

The councilman's report is extensive. It begins with a one-page summary of the alleged plagiarism and billing issue, followed by a six-page comparison that corresponds to various web-links set up by DiCiccio's office that display photos of slides, invoices, and-emails. (Links below.)

"The Whitaker Group’s training material [has a] total of 84 slides, of which 52 are copies or have minor modifications," the report states. "Each of the slides in The Whitaker Group’s presentation had an individual copyright on each page, regardless of whether it was an exact copy of the Chicago Police presentation.

"The Whitaker Group’s copyright was on work that was not Professor Whitaker's own work," the report maintains.

For instance, according to the report, Whitaker begins his presentation with a slide called "Housekeeping" that reminds officers in training sessions to keep cell phones turned off, about  "Agenda/Breaks," and to  "Have an Open Mind." It's illustrated with a picture of a Phoenix police badge. At the bottom is a "Whitaker Group LLC" copyright notice.

The Chicago PD's "Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy Training" material, states DiCiccio's report, begins with a slide labeled "Housekeeping," is illustrated by badges, and tells officers about cell phones, restrooms, how the agenda will include breaks, and to  "Have an Open Mind."

“Professor Whitaker charged the city for training materials that were largely copied from the Chicago Police Department,” DiCiccio accuses. “He ultimately was paid more than $21,000 in taxpayer money for work that he didn’t do, and he needs to pay it all back.”

Whitaker didn't return a message from New Times for comment. ASU had this to say about DiCiccio's allegations:

"Dr. Whittaker’s work with the city of Phoenix was through his private business, so you will need to speak with him on that topic.

"Academic integrity is at the core of ASU’s role as a major research university, and Dr. Whittaker recognized the shortcomings of his book and apologized to his colleagues. The University took appropriate steps to address his lapses after they were brought to the attention of the appropriate faculty leaders, ordering a review of the work in question and, ultimately, reducing Dr. Whittaker’s rank, pay and role as a director of a university center."


UPDATE: This afternoon, Whitaker sent New Times a statement on the matter, denying that he plagiarized anything for the training sessions:

"Reports that The Whitaker Group, L.L.C., plagiarized or improperly used Chicago Police Department Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy training content is patently false. In its April 2015, proposed Training Module upon which its contract with the Phoenix Police Department was awarded, The Whitaker Group, L.L.C. expressly notified the Phoenix Police Department that 83% of the material content it intended to utilize in training derived from the Chicago Police Department’s Education and Training Division’s Revised Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy training regimen.

In addition, the Chicago Police Department was fully aware that The Whitaker Group, L.L.C. was providing training to the Phoenix Police Department. For instance, in early July, The Whitaker Group, L.L.C. was coordinating with the Chicago Police Department trainers to brief Phoenix Police leadership on the benefits of procedural justice and legitimacy training before it voluntarily canceled its contract with the City of Phoenix. The Whitaker Group, L.L.C. will vigorously defend itself and take action against those persons and entities responsible for spreading falsities." 


Also, Anthony Guglielmi, a Chicago police spokesman said his city sent the material to ASU police as a courtesy for educational purposes and that it wouldn't have sent it so a company could use it for profit, states an article by Donna Rossi of Channel 5 News (KPHO-TV). Rossi's article, on the station's website, has an ASU spokesman confirming that the material was sent to the ASU department by the Chicago PD —  and that  Whitaker received the material when he sat on an advisory panel to university police. Rossi also writes that Guglielmi told her that the Chicago PD would have sent cops to teach the material to Phoenix police for just the cost of room and board.

Here are links to DiCiccio's report:


Supporting Analysis: Comparison of Whitaker Group’s Race, Culture, Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy training for the City of Phoenix with Chicago Police Department’s Procedural Justice and Police Legitimacy Training

 Whitaker Group invoicesMay 21, 2015 invoice e-mailsMay 27, 2015 invoice e-mailsWhitaker Group Training Materials Pages 1-12Whitaker Group Training Materials Pages 13-25Whitaker Group Training Materials Pages 26-38;Whitaker Group Training Materials Pages 39-55;
Whitaker Group Training Materials - Original Content SlidesChicago Training Slides; and the Copied Slides.


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