Earlier this week, Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams made an exceptional decision to fire three officers, two of whom had brought nationwide scrutiny to the department. But Williams' decision to fire cops whose shocking actions had damaged the reputation of the department has earned the ire of the Phoenix police union.
"We have received no less than, I don't know, two, three hundred calls and emails here at the office regarding this," said Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) president Michael Britt London in a video shared on Facebook on Thursday, October 25. The Phoenix Police Department has nearly 4,000 employees.
"A vote of no-confidence is an extremely serious matter and we do take it very seriously. Everything stems from the employment termination of Chris Meyer and Dave Swick," London said. "We are going to have to probably call an emergency board meeting to discuss this. We've heard it time and time again, the chief has lost the department. She's definitely lost PLEA members, a majority of them it seems, so we will deal with that."
Williams called the three officers' behavior "unacceptable" at a press conference on Tuesday. "I expect more, you deserve more," Williams said. "As of today, we reemphasize the respect and professionalism expected of the Phoenix Police Department. The men and women of this department are our greatest assets, and they have my full support as we move forward with our dedication to our duties."
PLEA, meanwhile, has speculated Williams' decision was driven by the mayor and the council, claimed the mayor and the council don't care about Phoenix police officers, and shared a GoFundMe page for the disgraced officers.
Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio has also shared the fundraising page on his Facebook page and claimed to have donated $1,000. He also went on the Mike Broomhead show on Thursday to tearfully decry "how Chief Williams threw dedicated police officers under the bus for her own career. This was an action causing significant harm to their families and their careers."
But it was the officers' own actions that led to their firings.
In June, cellphone footage of Meyer's explosive encounter with 22-year-old Dravon Ames, his pregnant fiancée, Iesha Harper, and their two young children made international headlines and prompted a deluge of criticism against the department. Police say Ames and his 4-year-old daughter walked out of a dollar store with underwear and a doll.
In the video, Meyer can be heard telling Ames he was going to, "Put a fucking cap in your fucking head!" He also attempts to yank Harper's one-year-old child from her arms, which caused the baby to begin crying. Throughout the video of the tense encounter, Meyer's voice can be heard cracking as he shrieks at the family to obey him, even as they already are obeying.
"My hands are up! My hands are up!" 22yo Dravon Ames says as a Phoenix police officer yells to "get your fucking hands up." The same officer later says "You're gonna fucking get shot!"— Meg O'Connor (@megoconnor13) June 12, 2019
Ames says the officers stopped him after his child walked out of a Dollar Store with a doll. pic.twitter.com/Nlkd7IXsyc
Swick, meanwhile, was fired following an internal review of 72 Phoenix police employees whose offensive Facebook posts were made public by the Plain View Project, a database created by a team of Philadelphia attorneys in an effort to catalog bigotry and racism among police officers nationwide.
Several of Swick's posts were included in the database. "Statistics show that criminals commit less crime after they've been shot," read one meme shared by Swick, apparently encouraging violence against people who have committed a crime. He again called for violence with a 2015 post of a road sign with the words, "Ferguson protestors ahead, speed up, aim well."
Swick also shared several posts insulting Muslims. In May 2015, he shared a photo of a woman wearing a T-shirt that read, "Stop Muslims Now," next to the words: "I'm not willing to let Muslims rape and kill me just to prove how tolerant I am." In August, he shared a photo of possible refugees captioned, "Stop Obama's colonization plan."
Even if PLEA did decide to initiate a vote of no confidence against Williams, it is essentially an exercise in futility that will do little more than make the Phoenix Police Department more divided: The vote alone cannot remove Williams. If it happens, the results would be presented to City Manager Ed Zuercher.
Mesa's police union recently tried the same thing with Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista. While 95 percent of the Mesa Police Association members surveyed for the vote said they were against Batista, the choice to remove Batista was ultimately up to the mayor and the city council, which supported Batista. Batista is still chief of Mesa police.
Williams has the support of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and most of the city council, with the exception of Sal DiCiccio.
"Every single one of you threw a dedicated police officer under the bus because you didn't have the fortitude to do the right thing," DiCiccio wrote in a letter addressed to Williams and three other police and city employees. "You ruined his life, his career, and made it difficult on his family....The honorable thing to have done would have been for each of you to resign before you ruined someone else's life."
"I support Chief Williams and the work she is doing to make Phoenix a stronger community," Gallego said in a statement. "The chief was clear in her message that public safety officers will be held accountable for actions that do not reflect the values of the police department. We are continuing to move forward with modernizations to strengthen the department and community trust."
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.