The unions that represent Phoenix police officers are ready to get rid of Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia.
The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) and the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association (PPSLA) announced today that they're going to hold votes of no confidence against Garcia. The unions have had various complaints about Garcia over the past few years, and they say the recent suicide of Officer Craig Tiger was the last straw.
"The men and women who daily serve the citizens of this community and who daily put themselves in harm's way deserve a true leader that understands the concept of servant leadership," PLEA president Joe Clure says. "Not a tyrant that uses intimidation and bullying tactics and whose idea of leadership is coming up with new programs, gimmicks, and catch-phrases every other month."
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 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 says 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."
In the latest issue of PLEA's news publication for members, Phoenix Law Enforcer, union VP Ken Crane outlined more than 20 other complaints against Garcia from the eyes of PD officers, citing a "failing state of morale" within the department.
The complaints include Garcia's unilateral 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.
In the shooting, which took the life of 50-year-old Michelle Cusseaux, Garcia announced that the department was bringing in the County Attorney's Office to review the case in response to public pressure for an external investigation -- although a review by the County Attorney's Office is the standard protocol in any officer-involved shooting.
PPSLA president Sean Mattson says it's one of a few examples in which Garcia's been disingenuous with the public.
After Cusseaux's body was brought to City Hall by family and protesters calling for an independent investigation, Garcia did get the Arizona Department of Public Safety to take the case.
According to Crane's list of complaints, Phoenix PD's homicide investigators were already not happy with this undermining, but many of them didn't know the case had been handed over to DPS until they read it in the news.
Garcia did meet with Phoenix PD homicide investigators later that day, but apparently didn't make them any happier.
"The Chief felt it necessary to set the tone for the meeting by making sure all in attendance knew that, out of everybody in the room, he had the most police experience, with 37 years in the business," Crane writes in Phoenix Law Enforcer. "The Chief further insulted everyone's intelligence by diagramming the basics of a shooting investigation on the whiteboard. This is kind of like a first-year high school physics student trying to explain the nuances of the theory of relativity to Albert Einstein."
All of this dissent isn't exactly new, either -- the unions surveyed their employees on Garcia's job performance more than a year ago, and Garcia got dismal reviews from the officers.
PLEA is also asking that Garcia be investigated by city management for misconduct, after his interaction with CBS 5 reporter Donna Rossi, who tried to ask Garcia questions about the Tiger case. See that interaction below:
In a letter to Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuecher, Clure says the union believes Garcia committed misdemeanor assault by making contact with Rossi.
Clure said today that what you can see in the video above is "exactly what we get on a daily basis" from Garcia.
While the police unions can't remove Garcia with their vote, PPSLA president Sean Mattson says it "send[s] a clear message of the pulse of morale and gauge[s] sworn employees' feeling of support from the man that is placed in the job to lead them."
The voting is done by balloting among the union members, and the union heads say they hope they'll know the results of the vote in December.
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We reached out to Phoenix PD to see if Garcia's willing to respond to everything the union's throwing at him, and we received this statement from Garcia: "The circumstances surrounding the death of Craig Tiger are extremely unfortunate. The Phoenix Police Department wishes to express our condolences to his family and out of respect for them we will not be commenting further about this issue until funeral services are complete."
Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.