Joe Yahner Appointed as Permanent Phoenix Police Chief

Interim Phoenix Police Chief Joe Yahner was appointed as the city's permanent police chief.

Yahner, who's been with the department for nearly 30 years, was tapped as interim chief late last year after city management fired Daniel Garcia after just a few years on the job. Yahner won't hang on to the permanent post too long, either -- he's said from the get-go that he plans to retire less than two years from now.

Mayor Greg Stanton, in announcing the hiring of Yahner to the permanent post, said today that Yahner is "well-respected across the board."

See also: -Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia Fired

Of course, the same could not be said about Garcia -- Yahner's predecessor.

The police unions, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) and the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association (PPSLA), had very public disagreements with Garcia, who was facing votes of no confidence from the unions. Garcia held a press conference to demand backing from the city, including a contract, and was fired immediately after that December press conference, for "insubordination."

"The chief disobeyed a direct order when he held his news conference today," City Manager Zuercher said in a statement at the time. "We can not expect our officers to follow orders when our chief fails to lead by example."

Zuercher specifically pointed out today that union leadership was at Zuercher's swearing-in ceremony "in support" of the new chief.

The unions' beef with Garcia included a wide range of 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 call for the no-confidence vote against him came after the suicide of Officer Craig Tiger, who was terminated from the department by Garcia for a DUI arrest, although PLEA said it was a cold decision by Garcia, whom they say didn't take into account Tiger's post-traumatic stress disorder.

As for Yahner, he most recently served as an executive assistant chief, and previously served as the department's interim chief when Jack Harris resigned in 2011.

Today, Yahner outlined five priorities he has as the new chief, including crime reduction, community engagement, training, technology, and an increase in hiring. A good deal of this predates Yahner's reign as chief, but some of it is particularly relevant.

For one, Yahner said the training will be 40 hours worth of material focused on issues like use of force, cultural consciousness, and dealing with the mentally ill. Of course, the department was in the national spotlight over two police shootings last year, one of an unarmed black man, the other of a mentally ill woman.

Technology has also been an issue of late with the department's records-management system. As New Times has reported, PPD's technology becomes a limiting factor in linking cases, such as the one of Bryan Patrick Miller, who's accused of killing two Phoenix women in the early '90s. A new system being implemented will help investigators make links between unsolved crimes, but that is a very difficult proposition right now.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley