Tempe Police Chief Resigns, City Manager to Appoint Interim Chief

Former Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir
Former Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir Photo courtesy City of Tempe
Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir is resigning, according to a news release issued by city officials this morning.

Moir, who has been in the position since 2016 and was the department's first female chief, will be stepping down from her post on October 25. Tempe City Manager Andrew Ching accepted her resignation and will appoint an interim chief in the "coming days," per the release.

Both Ching and Tempe Mayor Corey Woods praised Moir in statements included in the announcement of her
click to enlarge Former Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir - PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF TEMPE
Former Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir
Photo courtesy City of Tempe

“Chief Moir served the residents of Tempe well,” Woods said. “She cares deeply for our community members and Tempe Police employees, and she has worked tirelessly to move our department forward.”

Ching will oversee the hiring process for a permanent police chief, according to City of Tempe spokesperson Nikki Ripley.

Asked what prompted Moir's resignation, Ripley declined to comment, referring New Times to Ching.

Ching later told New Times that he and Moir had been "in discussions" about her stepping down for several weeks leading up to the announcement.

He wanted a new chief to help reform the police department amid ongoing calls for police reform, he said. He declined to provide details on why Moir wasn't suited to meet the moment. Ching did acknowledge that Moir's past controversies played a role in her departure.

"I felt that in order to take this new direction, we needed new leadership," Ching said. "To really make sure that we’re the kind of progressive, dynamic, 21st-century police organization that we want it to be, change is going to be necessary."

He added that Moir will receive a two-month severance as well as various accrued benefits.

Moir's tenure as Tempe Police chief was marked by some high-profile scandals and controversies.

In 2018, she drew flak for asserting that a fatal crash involving an Uber autonomous vehicle was "unavoidable" before an investigation had been completed. Moir also racked up over $36,000 in city-funded travel expenses between 2016 and 2018, and was criticized for defending cops who visited a strip club during a work trip.

More recently, she was caught up in a lawsuit filed by her predecessor, Tom Ryff, who alleged that the city breached a non-disparagement agreement in his retirement contract and blocked him from getting a job with the Tempe Union School District; Moir allegedly told the superintendent that the department was "uncomfortable" with Ryff working in that position, and the job offer to Ryff was rescinded.

The Tempe Police Department has come under fire of late for police shootings and other controversial conduct. In January, 2019, a Tempe cop killed a 14-year-old boy, shooting him in the back while he was running away holding a toy air-soft gun. While Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel cleared the officer of any criminal wrongdoing, Moir said that the officer's actions violated department policies and procedures.

In early September, body camera footage emerged showing Officer Ronald Kerzaya holding an unarmed Black man at gunpoint. Kerzaya was also involved in another incident where he shocked another unarmed Black man with a stun gun while he was carrying his 1-year-old kid in his home.

The news of Moir's resignation also gave the city the chance to highlight an announcement last month that Mayor Woods will convene a "Public Safety Advisory Board" this fall to examine "data, policies, hiring, use of technologies, training, and how the city engages with people who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color, and those with mental health challenges. "

(Note: This story was updated a few hours after publication with City Manager Andrew Ching's comments.)
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Josh Kelety is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. Previously, he worked as a reporter for the Inlander and Seattle Weekly.
Contact: Josh Kelety