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“Police board undermines discipline”: This is a serious, and recurring, issue

August 26, 2015

“Police board undermines discipline”: This is a serious, and recurring, issue
On August 25 the lead editorial in the Arizona Republic began with the headline “Police board undermines discipline” Amen, Amen is my response…..but this is not a new issue and I wonder when the Republic is going to go after the real guilty party and start holding the Mayor of Phoenix responsible. The Republic needs to stop criticizing the Civil Service Board and place the blame where it belongs. These board appointments are made by the mayor and, if the mayor appoints liberals to these posts, we will get people who side with the unions and oppose management. The mayor needs to replace a few of these whiney liberals who are married to the unions (as is the mayor—part of the problem) and appoint some tough minded conservatives who understand the importance of discipline in a quasi-military organization like our police department.
I have been editorializing on this issue for over 30 years as a result of my personal experience when I was chairman of the Phoenix Civil Service Board in the 1980s (see a copy of my most recent submission below) but nothing has changed.
Remember that oft quoted definition of insanity…….let’s keep it in mind and do something different.

Roy’s last editorial-Do the Unions Run the Phoenix PD (comment on Jan 11, 2015 Az Republic)
Phoenix residents should pay particular attention to the January 11 Arizona Republic article “Garcia, board differed on discipline.” The article questions whether the Phoenix Civil Service Board undermines the authority of the Chief by reducing punishments meted out to offending police officers. Most Phoenicians will agree that police officers should be held to a higher standard of behavior and character than other Phoenix employees, especially those who do not carry weapons and who are not asked to place their lives (and the lives of their fellow officers) on the line every day. This higher standard requires a more authoritarian approach to discipline than some people who have never worn a uniform will understand. We need only look to Chicago or New York or Washington DC for examples of what can happen when police discipline is not maintained at very high levels.
Phoenicians should know that this problem is not new to our city. Some with longer memories will recall an incident in the 1980s where seven Phoenix police officers were dismissed for public drunkenness, firing their weapons, and public disturbance. These incidents occurred under the Seventh Avenue Bridge, a spot that had become a gathering place for off-duty cops, and these officers came to be known as the Seventh Avenue Seven. At that time we had another police chief, (Rueben Ortega), who believed in very high standards for his officers, just like our recently terminated Chief Garcia, and he enforced those standards strictly. He terminated all seven officers.
I was serving on the Phoenix Civil Service Board when these seven officers appealed the terminations. At that time the Civil Service Board members (who were appointed by a conservative mayor-Margaret Hance) also believed in very high standards for police officers and we upheld the terminations by a vote of 5-0. What happened next should be a lesson for Phoenix residents. Over the next three years the police officers appealed the decision to the Maricopa County Superior Court. The court eventually remanded the case to the Civil Service Board. During the intervening three years there were three new appointments to the board (appointed by a more liberal mayor-Terry Goddard). Unfortunately (in my opinion), the new appointees to the Board did not have the same concern for police discipline. The Board voted 4-1 to reinstate the officers. (One remaining member, a union business manager, changed his vote.) By the time of the rehearing, I was chairman of the board and I was the only board member who stuck to upholding the terminations. (I was so disappointed and disillusioned that I resigned from the board shortly afterward.) The case drew so much publicity that the rehearing had to be conducted in the Phoenix Council Chambers.
I believe that this decision caused, or at least revealed, a decline in the authority of the Chief of Police and a consequent increase in behavior that should not be tolerated. Let’s not let it happen again.

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