Was Scottsdale's First Black Commander Fired As Retaliation? Police Board Thinks So.

Police Chief Jeri Williams (second from the left) said during a March 17 AZPOST meeting that the Scottsdale Police Department's investigation into former commander Aaron Minor seemed like "retaliation."
Police Chief Jeri Williams (second from the left) said during a March 17 AZPOST meeting that the Scottsdale Police Department's investigation into former commander Aaron Minor seemed like "retaliation." Melissa Fossum

In October 2019, Aaron Minor filed a lawsuit in federal court against the Scottsdale Police Department, claiming that he was unfairly fired from his commander post in retaliation for reporting homophobic remarks made by Assistant Chief Richard Slavin.

Slavin allegedly said during a staff meeting that a training session he'd attended regarding a terrorist attack in France was led by a French police supervisor, so the supervisor was "probably gay." He went on to ask an attendee at the meeting, "Are you gay?"

After Minor reported the incident and was interviewed about it, an internal probe was launched — into Minor.

The investigation concluded that Minor had acted dishonestly and that the Scottsdale Police Department had "lost trust and confidence" in his ability to "fulfill the duties and expectations" of his position.

Minor, the department's first Black commander when he was promoted to the position in 2014, was subsequently fired. Slavin wasn't disciplined for his remarks, according to the complaint.

click to enlarge Former Scottsdale Police Department Commander Aaron Minor - SCREENSHOT VIA YOUTUBE
Former Scottsdale Police Department Commander Aaron Minor
Screenshot via Youtube
The investigation of Minor also made it before the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZPOST), the state's chief board for handling police misconduct. It has the power to revoke, suspend, and grant police officers' law enforcement certifications in the state.

But at a March 17 AZPOST meeting, board members seemed to agree that the investigation into Minor and the subsequent decision to fire him was vindictive.

"Reading through this, this reeks of retaliation in my opinion," Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams and AZPOST board member said during the meeting. "I'm deeply troubled. In my opinion, it looks more retaliatory than a good and equitable investigation."

Kevin Robinson, a professor of criminology at Arizona State University and a former assistant chief in the Phoenix Police Department, said that he was "appalled" at the case.

"The person we’re being asked to discipline, to action, is the person who brought the issues to everyone's attention," he said. "The person we should be talking about is the person who made the comments, and that doesn’t appear to be the case."

"There’s something wrong here," Robinson added.

The AZPOST board ultimately voted unanimously to refrain from taking action on the case.

Steve Serbalik, an attorney representing Minor, said that the ruling by AZPOST was vindicating.

"We knew that an outside review of the actual facts would show that Commander Minor didn't do anything wrong," he said. "He didn't have any integrity issues and he didn't do anything that would result in his certification being in jeopardy."

Minor "received discipline as a result of him bringing misconduct forward. That’s what retaliation is, and that's wrong," Serbalik added. "We should encourage police officers, particularly police supervisors, to stand up when they see something wrong. That’s what Commander Minor did."

When Minor was fired, he was initially denied the right to appeal the termination, but the City of Scottsdale settled his lawsuit and granted him an appeal process. But that didn't get him his job back: The city's Personnel Board was split on whether to reinstate him, and Scottsdale City Manager Jim Thompson opted to uphold the original firing. Minor is appealing the decision in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Kelly Corsette, a spokesperson for the City of Scottsdale, declined to comment on the AZPOST ruling and the case generally, citing the ongoing litigation.
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Josh Kelety was a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety