By Terri Jo Neff |
As the city of Phoenix prepares to navigate through a U.S. Department of Justice civil rights investigation, there is a new chief at the helm.
Michael G. Sullivan was sworn-in last Friday as Interim Chief, several weeks after he officially began working for the city under a one year contract with a base pay of $232,000. His swearing-in ceremony came just days after the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (AZPOST) board approved Sullivan’s application for a restricted certification
The restriction bars Sullivan from being assigned “any duty likely to result in the need to apply physical force.” His contract signed in September gives Sullivan six months to pass all AZPOST training requirements and “satisfactorily perform the practical demonstrations of proficiency in physical conditioning, vehicle operations, pursuit operations, and firearms, including firearms qualifications as required by AZPOST.”
In the meantime, city officials are planning to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent police chief, although no promises have been made to Sullivan if he wishes to stay longer.
Sullivan was hired by Phoenix PD from Baltimore PD where he has spent the last few years helping that agency deal with the fallout of a US DOJ investigation. He previously spent 20 years with Louisville PD in Kentucky.
In public comments, Sullivan has acknowledged there are many challenges facing the department beyond the US DOJ investigation. He has mentioned the agency’s understaffing problem, its lack of accountability and transparency to the community, and dwindling department morale as just some of the issues he needs to tackle while also trying to appease investigators with the US DOJ’s Civil Rights Division.
In August 2021, the US DOJ announced it was undertaking a “comprehensive review” of Phoenix PD’s policies, training, supervision, and force investigations. Also under scrutiny will be the department’s “systems of accountability, including misconduct complaint intake, investigation, review, disposition, and discipline.”
The investigation is authorized under the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which prohibits state and local governments from engaging in “a pattern or practice of conduct” by law enforcement officers that is in violation of federal law or which deprives individuals of the constitutional rights. The Act allows the U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to seek a number of remedies through civil litigation.