Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia held a press conference yesterday, in part to demand a two-year contract from the city.
He was fired for holding that press conference.
"The chief disobeyed a direct order when he held his news conference today," City Manager Zuercher said in a statement released shortly after the press conference. "We can not expect our officers to follow orders when our chief fails to lead by example."
Garcia, who was hired by the previous city manager, lasted less than three years on the job. Despite several high-profile incidents involving the Phoenix Police Department over the last few months, namely fatal shootings of citizens, Garcia's firing appears to be totally about his beef with the two police unions.
"I'm here because the union board is using a vote of no-confidence to have me terminated and again disrupt the operation of this organization," Garcia said at his press conference yesterday. "I'm here because a city councilman, Sal DiCiccio, requested that I be removed from office -- a clear violation of the city charter, and a violation of the law."
The police unions, the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) and the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association (PPSLA), announced last month that they're holding votes of no-confidence against Garcia, whom they've butted heads with ever since he was hired. DiCiccio, typically the council's harshest critic of labor unions, has been among the police unions' biggest defenders as of late, although he denies directly asking for Garcia's firing.
Yesterday, Garcia called out the unions, claiming they don't have the votes against him. (Regardless, the unions' votes aren't binding, so this alone couldn't have had Garcia fired.)
Police chiefs usually don't have contracts, but Garcia was demanding one from the city for two years, just like the unions' contracts with the city.
"This contract has no requests for additional pay increases," Garcia explained. "I will receive the same wage increases and decreases my officers receive by council, and there are no pension guarantees on this contract."
Garcia didn't stick around to answer questions, and there were clearly a lot of them from the reporters in that room. He only vaguely explained why he was demanding that contract.
"I don't like sports analogies but I'm going to use one with you," Garcia said. "When an owner of a team has issues with maybe not having support out there with his coach, what does he do? He gives him a contract, and silences the critics."
PLEA came back with a sharp response to Garcia's firing:
"The Chief . . . essentially demanded a two year contract that is not even permissible under the City Charter. It is unknown why the Chief did this. Perhaps he momentarily mistook the Phoenix PD for an NFL franchise. If so, the Chief, by his own actions essentially secured his new status as a free agent."
It certainly seems like there were some discussions between Garcia and city management that were kept from the public, although the letter informing Garcia of his firing doesn't mention exactly what's been going on.
"Due to your failure to follow a direct order given by Assistant City Manager Milton Dohoney, insubordinate and unprofessional conduct, and behavior that does not support the City's mission, your employment with the City is hereby terminated immediately," the memo says. "You are immediately relieved of your command."
A statement from Councilman DiCiccio mentions some anger over the fact that Garcia did not attend a city council meeting this week on the topic of police, in which community members brought their concerns before the council.
"But neither the Chief nor anyone else in his line of command attended this meeting," DiCiccio's statement says. "One of my fellow council members called his absence 'inexcusable.'"
Although Garcia didn't answer questions at his own press conference yesterday, Sergeant Trent Crump, a department spokesman, mentioned that nobody specifically invited Garcia to the meeting.
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's always insisted that he's worked with the unions on various things, but usually hasn't budged on their big complaints. For example, Garcia yesterday addressed the accusations that he's a tyrant when it comes to officer discipline.
"I think it's very ironic that the entire country is discussing officers' accountability on use of force and arrest powers, and our unions, our union boards -- PLEA and PPSLA -- want me fired for holding our officers to the highest policing standards," he said.
Even in recent days, the complaints from the union have continued. PPSLA Vice President Pat Tortorici just recently penned a column alleging Garcia already established a "Good Ol' Boy Network" at PPD.
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Although Garcia's firing officially came due to disobeying orders from city management, it seems pretty clear who really got Garcia fired.
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