Longform

Phil Roberts Exaggerated the Phoenix PD's Kidnapping Statistics, Then Tried to Debunk His Own Numbers

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Burgett told him to take whatever time he needed.

While she tried to accommodate his personal needs, she also demanded that he perform as a manager.

"We have worked to divide the responsibilities of the overburdened detectives . . ." Burgett wrote in Roberts' 2008 performance review. "Another advantage to this division in responsibilities: It allows for you to focus and better manage the detectives assigned to you."

She urged him to control his "expressive," or dramatic, nature.

"I know this is a demonstration of your enthusiasm for a job well done," she wrote. "But I would caution you to be factual and concise when disseminating information outside of our bureau."

Roberts, accustomed to far more glowing reviews, was furious. In his memos, he repeatedly called them the "worst notes" he'd ever received on his performance during his 24 years as a police officer.

He adopted the acronym "FTB" (Fuck the Bitch), and wrote it on his office white board, along with other war-related scribblings.

"Find a New Wife???" he wrote on the board, and beneath it: "Who needs one FTB!"

The board was also peppered with quotes, perhaps illustrative of his own struggles:

"If it bleeds, we can kill it." — Predator

"In Robbery, no one can hear you scream." — paraphrased from Alien

"To win a war . . . you must become war." — Rambo: First Blood Part II

On August 2, 2009, a month before HIKE's anticipated move to the Drug Enforcement Bureau, Roberts wrote his first memo blasting Burgett.

He accused her of destroying public records, fostering a hostile work environment rife with sexual and racial discrimination, violating the civil rights of a kidnapping suspect, botching a criminal investigation, and retaliating against him for exposing her misdeeds.

Roberts' allegations fell mostly flat after they were investigated by the Professional Standards Bureau (the internal affairs arm of the Phoenix Police Department), the city's Equal Employment Department, and the City Manager's Integrity Committee, which reviews various complaints.

A few weeks later, Roberts forged a symbiotic relationship with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the police union for rank-and-file cops. The union welcomed Roberts on September 1, 2009.

While PLEA's agenda was to oust Harris, a chief known for his opposition to union officials' political push for local cops to engage in anti-immigration enforcement, Roberts seemed obsessed with bringing down Burgett.

Together, Roberts and PLEA unloaded an arsenal of allegations against police. At first, kidnapping statistics were not on the top of their list. The claim registered only a few sentences on page four of his first 20-page memo.

"Statistics continually are shifted and moved around to meet agendas and perpetuate the idea that kidnappings and home invasions required a huge police response with millions of dollars in federal grant money," he wrote in his August 2009 memo to Marquita Beene, an investigator in the city's Equal Opportunity Department. "This, in spite of the fact that the number of 'operational' kidnappings have drastically decreased and the organized home invasion crews seemed to be few and far between."

Yet, nine months earlier, Roberts himself nominated the Robbery Unit for the 2008 Police Chief Unit Award, partially for their herculean efforts in dealing with the "influx of border-related crimes."

Roberts again contradicted himself in an April 12, 2010, memo as he explained that his team of robbery detectives fell behind because they deal with 5,000 cases a year, unlike HIKE detectives, who "receive approximately 300 kidnapping and 50 home invasion investigations a year."

Although Roberts' allegations weren't adding up, he was undeterred. If his allegations were proved false, Roberts accused investigators of being part of the conspiracy against him.

On different occasions, Roberts wrote: "I feel I have been the repeated target [of] retaliation from upper-level management . . ." And "I believe that Professional Standards Bureau is now a co-conspirator in EEO retaliation."

Later he wrote, "Several union officials have cautioned me over the past few days that as the allegations are brought forward, officials reading this memorandum may make statements that 'Phil is out of control,' 'He's crazy,' or 'He's doing this because of his divorce.'"

But he continued writing. And contradicting himself.

Roberts claimed repeatedly that police officials retaliated against him for being a "whistle-blower" by forcibly removing him from the Robbery Unit.

However, on September 25, 2009, he sent an e-mail to his detectives telling them he was voluntarily leaving the unit.

In September 2009, Roberts requested a transfer from the Robbery Unit to the Squaw Peak Precinct until he "found a more permanent home." He told police officials that he made the request because it was in his best interest, as well as the unit's. His request was granted on October 5, 2009.

Also, in a February 19, 2010, memo, he admitted that he "did submit three transfer requests in 2009, all to leave Lieutenant Burgett's span of control."

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Monica Alonzo
Contact: Monica Alonzo