No one was hurt in the minor mishap. But what happened next has become the talk of the police department.
According to Mike Petchel, head of Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, there are lingering questions as to whether Crawford tried to order one of his men to doctor the accident report and place the blame on Beattie.
Officer John Boughton resisted the orders, sources tell New Times, and insisted that his lieutenant was the one at fault. Ultimately, two accident reports were filed, giving somewhat different depictions of what happened.
Crawford's supervisor, Captain Greg Denney, says he reviewed the two reports and decided that Crawford was, indeed, at fault.
"If what the officer [Boughton] described to me actually happened, then the lieutenant's actions are highly inappropriate, or worse," says Petchel. "I can tell you the officer feels extremely uncomfortable about this, in terms of the pressure he felt was being exerted on him by the lieutenant."
Neither Boughton nor Crawford returned telephone calls from New Times.
Denney, however, says he is satisfied that Crawford did not cross any ethical boundaries. Denney characterizes the flap as a simple disagreement between Crawford and Boughton over whose fault the accident was, and says both men turned to him to referee the dispute.
According to the two reports now on file at the department's accident-records office, Beattie was driving south in the 4700 block of North Central Avenue when he pulled into the turn lane to make a left turn.
The northbound lanes of Central Avenue were closed to traffic that day for a 5K race, the reports show. Crawford was driving his patrol car south in one of the northbound lanes.
When Beattie made his left turn, Crawford ran into the side of Beattie's van, the reports show.
Boughton, a veteran motorcycle officer, was sent to investigate the accident. On standard report forms, Petchel says, officers indicate whose fault the accident probably was by listing the errant driver as Traffic Unit Number One. "Under state law, the way the form is filled out, the person who is listed as number one is the one who was most at fault," Petchel says.
Boughton, Petchel says, wanted to list his lieutenant as driver number one, but Crawford argued with him, insisting that the onus be shifted to Beattie.
"The officer decided to fill out two reports, one listing the lieutenant as number one and one listing the lieutenant as number two," Petchel says. "[Boughton] told the lieutenant that he needed to make the decision of what was going to go downtown."
Eventually, both reports were filed, with contradictory listings of who was driver number one and who was driver number two. On both reports, however, Boughton indicated that Beattie engaged in "no improper driving," while Crawford drove "in [an] opposing traffic lane."
Denney says Boughton and Crawford brought the disagreement to his attention. Denney reviewed the two reports and talked to everyone involved, he says, before deciding that the official report would list Crawford as driver number one.
Beattie was cited for failing to have proof of insurance. Crawford was not cited. (Beattie says his attorney will not let him talk about the accident.)
Denney says that after having a "long, closed-door session" with Crawford, he does not feel the lieutenant violated any department policies. "My position would have been that it be handled differently," Denney says. But, he says, "I can find nothing wrong that was done.