A Mass Purge of Misconduct Records by Phoenix, Arizona Police
Few people realize that Phoenix police regularly “purge” the disciplinary records of police, an Arizona Republic investigation uncovered. And it’s been going on for two decades.
The Republic uncovered “more than 600 acts of wrongdoing” committed by 525 cops (out of nearly 3,000 sworn employees) in just the past five years, with 90 percent of all “sustained misconduct investigations” being purged.
Police unions hold sway. As techdirt.com pointed out in a September 9, 2019, article by Tim Cushing, “There’s nothing about American policing that police unions can’t make worse. A powerful obstacle standing in the way of accountability and transparency, police unions ensure Americans remain underserved by their public servants.”
In Phoenix, The Republic “obtained the complete list of misconduct records from the Fiscal Management Bureau, which is responsible for transferring disciplinary records from the Police Department to the city’s Human Resources Department. The Republic also obtained a list of misconduct record kept by the Police Department’s Professional Standards Bureau which conducts internal affairs investigations. By cross-referencing the two sets of records, The Republic identified hundreds of disciplinary cases that had been hidden from internal affairs and the Department’s leadership.”
Kevin McGowen was among them. The now-former officer “earned top marks in his 2015 evaluation despite being disciplined for serious misconduct during the previous year. An internal investigation concluded McGowan used excessive force when he stomped on an 18-year-old man’s neck, driving his face into the tile floor of a convenience store and knocking out three of the man’s teeth. The incident was captured in surveillance footage taken from the store.
“McGowan was initially fired, but the union interceded and he ended up with only a 30-day suspension. A few years later, the disciplinary files were purged, resulting in this cop being commended for being such a great cop. Phrases like ‘positive attitude’ and ‘community contributor’ were tossed around by supervisors unaware of McGowan’s recent past.”
Judging from the now-available information, this situation appears to be far from an anomaly—and it has an effect on police oversight.
As techdirt.com pointed out, “If the goal is to keep bad cops employed indefinitely, it’s been super-effective.”