Feathered Bastard

Mesa Police Chief George Gascon Issues Statement on D.C. Testimony, Will Reimburse Activist Group for Trip

In the face of a barrage of criticism from nativist and right-wing groups angered by his recent testimony before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, Mesa Police Chief George Gascon has today released a statement justifying his actions, saying that he was invited by Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, and that he considers it "an honor and a civic duty" to inform Congress about "policing and the care taken to protect civil rights." (You can read today's press release in its entirety, here.)

Gascon also included a copy of his opening comments to the committee. These comments do not mention Sheriff Joe Arpaio by name. Rather, they illustrate the problems Gascon perceives with the application of the federal 287(g) program. Indeed, Gascon only critiqued how Arpaio uses his 287(g) authority after the top Mesa cop was asked by the committee to talk about Sheriff Arpaio's actions.(Gascon's opening words to the House Judiciary Committee can be perused, here.)

During the hearing last week, Gascon came under intense questioning by minority Republicans on the committee, who asked who paid for Gascon's plane ticket to D.C. At the time, Gascon believed various non-profit immigration reform groups had paid for it, but he subsequently learned that the ticket was paid for by the Phoenix civil rights group Respect/Respeto.

In his statement, Gascon says that he will reimburse the cost of the ticket from his personal funds -- in hindsight, something he probably should have done from jump. Also, he relates that he's informed Mesa's City Manager that he'll "take personal leave days off"  even though he was testifying "at the request of Congress and in [his] capacity as a professional law enforcement officer."

Considering the lengths Gascon's going in order to avoid any appearance of impropriety, it's difficult to see how the local wing-nuts here in Sand Land can continue to call for his hide. This is more than Sheriff Arpaio has ever done in regards to his flights around the country to promote himself shamelessly. Gascon, by comparison, was testifying at the request of Congress.

Of course, Cactus Country's nativist attack squads simply don't like what Gascon had to say in D.C. If Gascon had been spouting the hatred that normally oozes from their side of the debate, they'd be singing a different tune.

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons