Phoenix Police And The
Community Response Squad
Shenanigans Within The Squad That Reaches Out To The Phoenix Metro Area Community Reveals That Law Enforcement Officials Are As Flawed As The Rest Of Us
Sgt. Mark Schweikert, left, Det. Jerry Oliver, center, and former Det. Chris Wilson, right.
By John Guzzon
Modern Times Magazine
Dec. 5, 2012 — People just love drama, don’t they?
From before the time of Sophocles, through to today, people just love stories with sexual overtones, intimidation and betrayal.
But when such drama is neither on stage nor screen, but part of one’s reality, drama can wreak havoc. When such actions take place within a police department, drama can be downright dangerous and instantly scandalous.
Police departments are undoubtedly an important part of any society. They are the backbone of justice. But as Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “with great power comes great responsibility.” The onus on those in law enforcement is that in order to enforce the laws, one must also be morally and legally forthright.
Or at least that is what a sentimentalist might say. In the real world, police are real people with real flaws and real problems. The leak of a report last week authored by Sgt. Mark Schweikert of the Phoenix Police Department’s Community Response Squad is not just a validation of that point, but also a peek behind the ‘thin blue line’ that is downright embarrassing.
The report was authored Sept. 24, less than 60 days after Chris Wilson, a former member of Schweikert’s unit — the Community Response Squad — was arrested for sexual contact with males younger than 18. Most of the headlines that followed from mainstream sources after the release of the report by http://badphoenixcops.blogspot.com/ Nov. 26, centered on Wilson being “shielded” from investigation by Schweikert by openly gay City Council member Tom Simplot and the also openly gay Assistant Chief Tracy Montgomery. Schweikert stated Wilson — who was the liaison with the LGBT community — went out of the chain of command so often, he felt like he couldn’t supervise him. Eventually, he alleged, even when he knew something was “wrong” with Wilson (which turned out to be that he was having sex with underage boys) there was nothing he could do.
There is no doubt that Schweikert was making that case with his report. But the details of what transpired transcends that simple argument.
Schweikert’s report — all 21 pages — discusses the problems he had with Wilson and Det. Dottie Conroy from the time he assumed command in July 2010. Conroy, Schweikert alleged in the report, was the former “significant other” of Montgomery. Wilson’s “significant other,” Schweikert alleged, was a “close associate” of Simplot. But even further, it showed that behind the authoritarian posturing, these people that are the Phoenix Police Department are fractured, suspicious, plotting and vindictive.
Read the report
Long story short: Schweikert says his gay employees answered to gay friends higher than him in the chain of command. He said there were justifiable problems with Conroy and Wilson — excessive overtimes, working on duty and they even finagled a police ‘quad’ into the gay pride parade in April. And, that since they were shielded by ‘fellow gays’ Wilson got away with a crime.
Might it also be a way of Schweikert saving his own ass? After all, he supervised Wilson, and Wilson used his job to meet willing young men that were not yet of legal age. Something like that might stem a promotion to lieutenant or commander.
Unless Schweikert has some evidence that Simplot and Montgomery were covering up Wilson’s illegal acts, it is not a story. It might just be that those openly gay in the police department are justifiably protective. Schweikert admitted in his report that Det. Al Ramirez had gone through counselling for calling Wilson something ‘not nice’ referring to his sexual orientation.
Simplot and Montgomery circled the wagons around a guy who — as far as anyone knew — was secretly involved in bad things. It is highly unlikely that it was a huge coverup.
What is so troubling about the details revealed in Schweikert’s report is that the Community Response Squad is supposed to be the ‘understanding’ cops. Unlike virtually any other team in the department, they don’t work calls, they don’t solve burglaries and they don’t investigate murders as their primary duty. They reach out to interest groups in the city — Muslims, Sikhs, Hispanics, African-Americans, the LGBT community and groups like Occupy Phoenix. In that capacity, they are in public relations.
But they also are the team that monitors and supervises all protests and public exercises of the First Amendment in the city of Phoenix. These officers are supposed to be the most tolerant members of the police department that can also decide when it is necessary to start arresting people if they cross the line between protected First Amendment rights and jail.
Instead, it appears that they are just a bunch of conflicted, narcissistic fools who can't even get along with each other. How can they be proper chaperones for those involved in public protests?
One of the most interesting angles on the leaked report is that even though Conroy was thrown under the bus in this late September report, she was named to replace Wilson as the new lead liaison to the LGBT community in November. Schweikert also said in the report that Conroy was spreading lies about her new partner in reaching out to the LGBT community, Officer Julie Smith.
That sounds like a productive situation, huh?
But the report wasn’t just about scandal and intimidation, it also took those protesters and activists that have come to know and be herded by the Community Response Squad behind the curtain. In that way, the report was, frankly, hilarious.
Read the report
It must be especially hilarious to those who took part in the Occupy Phoenix occupation of Cesar Chavez Plaza last fall. It was at that time that Wilson and Schweikert first went head to head. When hundreds of people were being intimidated and worrying about what the police were thinking, the police were actually fighting amongst themselves and worrying about whether they were “liked.”
“During this time period tensions between the Phoenix Police Department and the Occupy Phoenix Group increased. Several activists took a personal disliking to me although I had developed a good rapport with a significant portion of the group. Mr. Wilson made it a point on several occasions to let me know that several members of the Occupy Phoenix group did not like me. Based on those statements Mr. Wilson made to me, Assistant Chief Montgomery began to contact Lieutenant Coley to question my decisions,” Schweikert wrote.
And, the Dec. 8 action where police raided Cesar Chavez Plaza and seized most of the canopies and equipment that the group had accumulated, Wilson, Montgomery and others took Schweikert to the mat.
“A citizen activist authored a letter complaining about the enforcement action and blamed me for the incident. A meeting with this activist was held,” Schweikert said. “Lieutenant Coley advised me that the citizen did not have a valid complaint but he wanted me to step back and let Mr. Wilson take more of an active role with the Occupy Phoenix group. Lieutenant Coley advised me that I was drawing the attention of Assistant Chief Montgomery and that I needed to have a lower profile. I did not agree with this decision. I believed Wilson made decisions based on working more overtime and to curry favor with Assistant Chief Montgomery.”
There is more. Much more. Every resident of the Valley should read this report. It will shock you, disgust you and make you realize that although those in law enforcement can sometimes perform heroic acts, they are rarely heroes.
In fact, they are more like high school students.
Can’t we all just get along?
John Guzzon is editor of Modern Times Magazine.
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