Interim Phoenix Police Chief Expects to Make Changes to Department

Interim Phoenix Police Chief Joe Yahner says he expects to make changes to the organization of the department, in the wake of the firing of former Chief Daniel Garcia.

Garcia was fired last week after a lengthy battle with the police unions, although was officially terminated for disobeying orders from the city manager. Garcia held a press conference to demand a contract from the city, and city leadership had directly warned Garcia not to hold that press conference.

Yahner didn't announce specific changes in his introductory press conference, but did say he's going to make some "little tweaks," specifically mentioning the organization structure.

See also: -Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia Fired

"I'm going to think about those things -- I'm going to do what I think is in the best interest of the police department and the community," Yahner said. "Will there be some changes? yeah, there probably will, but i don't know what they are just yet."

Yahner's mention of some reorganization is significant because Garcia made some big-time organizational changes when he came onto the job, which including demoting some assistant chiefs from his executive team.

Yahner, most recently an executive assistant chief himself, previously served as the department's interim chief when Jack Harris resigned in 2011, and the search for a new chief resulted the following year in the hiring of Garcia.

Garcia lasted less than three years on the job, undoubtedly due to his ongoing beef with the unions, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) and the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association (PPSLA).

Union publications like Phoenix Law Enforcer have also given insight into the unions' ongoing beef with Garcia, with wide-ranging complaints from Garcia's harsh decisions in officer terminations or discipline, his eliminating a certain type of more casual uniform for patrol officers in favor of a more formal uniform, and his handling of an officer's fatal shooting of a mentally ill Phoenix resident earlier this year.

The unions said the final straw was the suicide of Officer Craig Tiger.

Tiger committed suicide on November 8 after being fired from the department for a 2013 DUI arrest. Tiger was pulled over on June 5, 2013, on his way to a family cabin, where he planned to commit suicide. In the subsequent treatment he was ordered to undergo, Tiger was diagnosed with PTSD, stemming from his involvement in a fatal shooting the year before.

According to PLEA president Joe Clure, Garcia ordered a termination hearing for Tiger, even though Garcia's policy on DUI doesn't call for automatic firings of officers busted for drunk driving.

Clure said that at the termination hearing, he and Tiger provided medical proof of Tiger's PTSD diagnosis, and both pleaded with Garcia not to fire him.

"Chief Garcia was unmoved," Clure says. "In an act of complete cold-hearted callousness, he terminated Officer Tiger . . . He refused to consider the totality of circumstances and denied Officer Tiger a second opportunity -- an officer who was injured on the job -- and fired him."

Garcia insisted last week that he was "holding our officers to the highest policing standards."

Meanwhile, Yahner certainly didn't act like an enemy of the unions.

"Am I going to work with the unions? Absolutely, the unions know who I am, I've grown up with them," he said. "They know my communication style, they know what my issues are. They can probably predict what I'm going to before I do it because I'm consistent over time."

Yahner said he wasn't sure if he'd pursue the job as a permanent post. Yahner, a 30-year veteran of the department, currently plans on retiring next year.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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