On Monday, Phoenix City Council Member Sal DiCiccio called for the city to put their COVID-19 vaccine mandate to a public vote. In his letter to City Manager Jeffrey Barton, who made the decision to implement the mandate, DiCiccio insisted that the mandate would only further strain their law enforcement staffing numbers.
“This decision will compromise vital citywide services to our residents, including public safety, which this Council has been aware of the alarming crime data and how the city is struggling to hire and retain personnel. A more thorough determination needs to be made on whether, under federal law, the City of Phoenix and it’s 13,000 employees are considered ‘federal contractors’ for the purposes of this mandate,” wrote DiCiccio. “A discussion and vote on this mandate needs to be held in public not behind closed doors. When this Council is mandating city employees to get vaccinated or else lose their job, pension, and years of service, the least this Council can do is be transparent with our employees.”
The city of Phoenix announced its vaccine mandate last week, giving workers until January 18 to comply. Barton reasoned that the city needed to impose the mandate because a majority of their operations are sourced in federal contracts – a class of employees required to be vaccinated under the Biden Administration. They promised $75 for each employee who complied with the mandate by the deadline – a benefit initially introduced earlier this year as an incentive to get vaccinated, now apparently a thank-you for compliance.
First responder associations signaled their support for efforts to fight Phoenix’s mandate. The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) and The United Phoenix Firefighters Association (UPFA) joined as co-plaintiffs in Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors and employees.
“For us, this issue is not about the vaccine but a concern for the public safety staffing in Phoenix and our members’ right to make their own personal health choices,” stated UPFA. “Forcing first responders out of a job protects no one.”
The PLEA Vice President Yvette Bro asserted that the city mandate would only worsen their staffing shortage.
“We can’t afford to lose one officer,” stated Bro.
City council candidate Sam Stone told AZ Free News that it was unconscionable for city leaders to unilaterally push for a mandate without input from those affected.
“This was a cowardly act by Phoenix politicians,” stated Stone. “They passed the buck because they know vaccine mandates are unpopular, and they want to gut our police force – but aren’t willing to take the blame for either of their poor decisions. Councilman DiCiccio is spot on to call for a public vote.”
Stone also insisted that city employees aren’t federal contractors, tweeting that the legal basis for the mandate was “bunk.” He warned AZ Free News that this mandate would grant the federal government more control over local government.
“Further, the city of Phoenix is not a federal contractor. Forget COVID for a minute, this sets a horrific precedent giving the federal government control over our cities and towns,” said Stone.
City of Phoenix employees will have until January 18, 2022, to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The new policy doesn’t offer an exemption for those working remotely. The city explained in its letter to employees that it was complying with President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors, due to the number of contracts held by the city.
As thanks for their compliance, the city will give the vaccinated employee $75. The cash perk was initially used as an incentive this past year. Assuming every one of their over 14,000 employees remains on staff and gets vaccinated, then the city will hand out a total of over a million dollars. As of their latest reports, the city has handed out over 6,900 of their compliance cash.
Phoenix Councilman Sal DiCiccio warned in an interview with KTAR that this mandate would only make the city lose more police officers at a time when their law enforcement is critically manned. He also challenged the city’s rationale that a sweeping mandate was required because they receive federal funds. DiCiccio asserted that the city of Phoenix isn’t a federal contractor.
“I’ve already sent a letter to the city manager asking him to identify exactly which contracts the city of Phoenix has,” said DiCiccio. “I can tell you police, fire and some other personnel with the city of Phoenix are not contractors – that’s a bunch of BS.”
DiCiccio also insisted that the main point of the mandate was to target first responders.
“It’s meant to attack them at various levels: [to] attack them personally, attack their families and now go after them this way,” said DiCiccio.
The councilman’s remarks reflect on the fact that the lowest vaccination rates in the Valley are among police officers and firefighters. Tucson’s vaccine mandate for all city employees – announced in August – hit those first responders the hardest.
As the city revealed this latest policy, companies around Phoenix have been advertising that they are hiring with “no vaccine required.”
City employees may request religious or medical exemptions by December 31 – New Year’s Eve.
Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MSCO) responded to criticisms from Phoenix City Council member Sal DiCiccio over their practice of stopping traffic to allow an NFL convoy through. DiCiccio submitted a letter to law enforcement on Tuesday, along with a series of posts on Facebook and Twitter to express his grievances with the practice. DiCiccio noted that he would assure this doesn’t happen again in his district in the future.
“This type of action is at the very least an inconvenience to our hard-working taxpayers. Granting special privileges to a select few is unacceptable in my district,” wrote DiCiccio. “This action also creates a great danger for our first responders during emergency calls as they are responding to critical life and death situations. Phoenix residents are already experiencing an increase in response times, worsened by this unnecessary action of special privilege that only hinders the ability for our first responders to answer calls, perhaps to save lives.”
MSCO was escorting a convoy of four or five buses carrying the Houston Texans football team. The councilmember called it a “special privilege for some really special people.”
Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone wasted no time issuing a response. Several hours after DiCiccio published his letter, Penzone sent back a letter of his own.
Penzone noted that their method of escorting professional athletic teams has been a regular practice for a little over a decade, one to two years before DiCiccio was elected. He asked DiCiccio why he hadn’t questioned the practice in years past, and whether the councilman actually had the authority to single-handedly stop this practice. Penzone also explained that the practice was necessary to protect visiting teams from hostility, as well as fines from the NFL due to tardiness. The sheriff estimated that the entire procession delayed regular traffic by about one to two minutes.
“In my estimation, the time allotted to your inconvenience was similar to, or less than the time you spent complaining on your social network platforms. When I calculate that time spent and the time I am now spending to respond to your petty complaint, I recognize the taxpayers deserve more from our time,” wrote Penzone.
Less than an hour later, DiCiccio shot back a response claiming that the sheriff’s remarks were dismissive of citizen concerns. “Crazy, now you know why there are two sets of rules, one for normal hard-working citizens and then the other for the elites,” wrote DiCiccio. “Sheriff Penzone came back saying he doesn’t care about the citizens of the district. He will continue stopping traffic so that his privileged players can skip through all the lights and hold up citizens in traffic.”
Penzone didn’t reply to DiCiccio’s response by press time.
Phoenix Police Department Chief Jeri Williams determined that police who die off-duty won’t have formal funeral arrangements. The police chief issued the policy announcement through a memo letter to city staff on Monday.
Phoenix City Council member Sal DiCiccio criticized the policy last week, days prior to Williams issuing the memo.
“DISTURBING: Chief Williams has really lost her way with the rank and file to placate the crazy anti-police crowd,” wrote DiCiccio. “We were notified early this morning that funerals for our brave police officers who die on duty are treated differently than those that are off duty. Seriously?”
DISTURBING: Chief Williams has really lost her way with the rank and file to placate the crazy anti-police crowd.
We were notified early this morning that funerals for our brave police officers who die on duty are treated differently than those that are off duty. Seriously? pic.twitter.com/bqOROZd0ne
DiCiccio told AZ Free News that this latest decision was yet another mistreatment of officers.
“What Phoenix is doing is BS. We have rising crime rates, can’t patrol our streets effectively – all because we don’t have enough cops – and Phoenix politicians are making it worse by constantly attacking Phoenix PD. They don’t even want to honor them with a proper funeral. It’s absurd,” stated DiCiccio.
The memo is reproduced in its entirety below:
The following memo addresses recent concerns related to notification of Police non-line of duty deaths. Based on research conducted by the Phoenix Police Department it has been determined that no written policy exists regarding non-line of duty death notifications. Instead, it has been the department’s longstanding practice to only formally notify City Council and City Management of line-of-duty deaths. Non-line of duty death notifications have been much less formal and not consistent. Therefore, I am establishing a formal written process from this point forward to ensure that information is provided consistently to all members of management and elected leadership for both line of duty and non-line of duty deaths and funeral services.
To effectively address the concerns referenced above, I am instructing the City Manager Liaison (Commander) to notify the Mayor, City Councilmembers, City Manager, and Assistant City Manager upon learning of a current police employee’s death.
Line of Duty Death: Line of Duty deaths have very formal programs for involvement of Police and City leadership. The City Manager Liaison will work with the Police Department’s Employee Assistance Unit (EAU) and provide funeral arrangement notification to the Mayor, City Councilmembers, and City management for Line of Duty deaths of current police employees as soon as possible. This will include funeral and viewing information, dignitary seating, and logistics notifications.
Non-Line of Duty Deaths: The Police Department’s Employee Assistance Unit often assists with Non-Line of Duty deaths of current police employees. Once advised by EAU, the City Manager will notify the Mayor, City Councilmembers, and City management of the non-line of duty death. Recognizing that each funeral service is different, the Department will make every attempt to support the wishes of a deceased employee’s family for public involvement in the funeral services.
The city of Phoenix announced last week it will punish Phoenix Police Department (PPD) officers for giving Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters criminal street gang charges. This latest development was part of an ongoing investigation into how PPD handled the arrests of 18 BLM protestors last October.
City Manager Ed Zuercher submitted the report to the Phoenix City Council, alluding to further disciplinary actions and reorganization. In a previous letter summarizing the investigation, Zuercher noted that any of PPD’s Tactical Response Unit (TRU) officers involved would be removed from that team. He added that his office and Human Resources would determine disciplinary action, and that officers involved are under an administrative investigation.
Phoenix City Councilmember Sal DiCiccio told AZ Free News that this decision was nothing more than a political show.
“What Phoenix is doing is BS. We have rising crime rates, can’t patrol our streets effectively – all because we don’t have enough cops – and Phoenix politicians are making it worse by constantly attacking Phoenix PD,” wrote DiCiccio. “It’s political gamesmanship, and they’re putting the public at risk to satisfy a tiny handful of screaming anarchist activists who know nothing about anything.”
According to Arizona statute, criminal street gangs are either ongoing or informal associations in which individuals or the collective engage in the commission, attempted commission, facilitation, or solicitation of any felony. Criminal street gang members are defined as individuals who meet at least two of the following criteria: self-proclamation, witness testimony or official statement, written or electronic correspondence, paraphernalia or photographs, tattoos, clothing or colors, and any other indica of street gang membership.
Participation in a criminal street gang is defined as intentionally organizing, managing, directing, supervising, or financing a criminal street gang with the intent to promote or further the criminal objectives of the gang; knowingly inciting or inducing others to engage in violence or intimidation to promote or further the criminal objectives of the gang; furnishing advice or direction in the conduct, financing or management of a criminal street gang’s affairs with the intent to promote or further the criminal objectives of the gang; or intentionally promoting or furthering the criminal objectives of a criminal street gang by inducing or committing any act or omission by a public servant in violation of the public servant’s official duty.
Criminal street gang participation is a class 2 felony, while assistance is a class 3 felony.
The council contracted Ballard Spahr, a national law firm, to conduct the investigation into these claims. The firm determined that PPD wrongfully charged the BLM protestors.
According to their report, the BLM protestors were charged with criminal street gang assistance because they chanted “All Cops Are Bastards.” That’s the full phrase behind “ACAB,” an acronym used by political dissidents opposed to and possibly violent toward police, repopularized during the BLM protests and riots in the wake of George Floyd’s death last year. The Anti-Defamation League classifies ACAB as a hate symbol.
The BLM protestors’ chant reportedly caused PPD officers to believe the protestors were involved in an ACAB-affiliated gang with an intent to harm police. Ballard Spahr cited multiple issues with PPD’s attempt to classify the protestors as part of a new gang. This included PPD’s decision to ignore the absence of any gang called ACAB in the state’s gang database, GangNet.
This debacle hasn’t remained local. At the beginning of August, the DOJ launched its own investigation into PPD.
At the helm of the DOJ investigation is Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke – the Biden appointee who wants to defund the police “strategically,” per her opinion piece published in Newsweek last summer. Clarke promised that the DOJ would work with PDD to create the “best remedies” if they discover any systemic constitutional or federal statutory rights.
If no agreement on best remedies can be reached, Clarke threatened legal action.
The Biden Administration announced it would investigate the PPD and the city of Phoenix for arresting Black Lives Matter (BLM) protestors under criminal street gang charges.
Citing the DOJ’s investigation and a lack of jurisdiction, Attorney General Mark Brnovich has declined to launch an investigation of his own.