Globe police chief search reaching conclusion

© 2018-Silver Belt

This is an updated version of a report published in the July 4, 2018 edition of the Silver Belt.

The City of Globe hosted a meet and greet for the four finalists to lead its troubled police department on June 28, giving residents the opportunity to ask questions of the applicants and talk about issues in a relatively casual atmosphere.

The earliest date a decision will be made is the July 24 City Council meeting, but it is likely it will not happen until sometime in August.

The candidates

The finalists are Patrick Melvin, former chief of police, Port Arthur, Texas; Brian Churchill, current lieutenant, Indianapolis, Ind.; Raymond Cota, former chief of police, Sedona, Ariz. and Dale Walters, current assistant police chief, Chandler, Ariz.

About 50 residents attended the meeting with questions ranging from policing styles, to how each candidate would address problems with recruitment and retention of officers — as well as how they would fix many other problems within the department — to questions of what a Google internet search would produce from the candidate’s past.

Melvin, a 33-year police veteran with 12 years’ experience as a chief, said he was the first officer recruited for the Maricopa Police Department, and his most recent job was at the Salt River Police Department from 2011-2016.

“I learned a lot about small communities,” he said.

Churchill grew up in Casa Grande and went into the Army in 1987 before going to Indiana to pursue his career in law enforcement. There, he is in charge of detective in the homeless unit and deals with narcotics and immigration issues.

He believes in restorative policing and community engagement.

“We can’t arrest our way out of crime,” Churchill said. “There has to be a better way.”

Walters has been in law enforcement for 28 years and is a third generation Arizonan from Flagstaff.

“There is no aspect of law enforcement I have not been involved with,” he said, adding that he wants to come to Globe “to get back to [his] roots.”

He’s a history buff and sees that Globe has been the epicenter for the first 150 years of Arizona history.

Cota spent 37 years in law enforcement and besides his stint in Sedona, served as chief in Corona, Calif.

“I want to be a part of what Globe is trying to achieve,” Cota said. “I don’t mind taking the hits. Someone has to be accountable.”

After the introductions, the candidates were asked questions gleaned from the audience that centered on problems within the Globe department and the candidates’ past behavior in other departments.

Fixing the department

When asked about problems with the Globe department, the candidates focused on community issues such as homelessness, substance abuse and morale in an overworked department that has seen a lot of turnover in its ranks.

“We need to develop a relationship with Native American community,” Melvin said, and address “homelessness, vagrancy and trespassing.”

As to personnel problems, “We need to recruit more officers,” he said. “There is a lot of burnout. You can only do so much.”

Churchill echoed Melvin’s assessments and talked about community outreach programs put in place in Indianapolis.

“The police department is disconnected,” he said. “There are a lot of challenges to officers. Some of them are working 18 hours a day. How are you going to react to people after a 12-hour shift?”

Walters expressed respect for the men and women in the department, but added that they are “bobbing in the water, taking on water.”

“There is no direction and no honest discussion with police and the city,” he said. “This situation did not happen overnight.”

He suggested community discussions to help “create a plan for moving forward.”

“It takes a community to solve,” Cota said. “If you think [one of us] can sprinkle magic dust — I’m not the one. It takes hard work and understanding.”

There was a moment of levity in the proceedings, when Melvin said that he was the magic dust.

Past issues

But the question that concerned many people in the audience was about past issues in the candidates’ careers that turn up on internet searches.

Each candidate was asked if there was anything that would concern them — or the public — should they do a basic search of the internet.

“There isn’t anything I’m ashamed about,” Cota began.

A brief search found that Cota served as Sedona’s chief for six years, from 2010-2016, but abruptly went on administrative leave for “personal reasons” in May 2016 with no explanation from the Sedona department or town officials.

He was also named in a whistleblower lawsuit associated with the Corona Police Department in 2011.

Walters was next, firmly stating “absolutely no. I have nothing to hide.”

But a search finds a report that as a sergeant in the Chandler Police Department, Walters was involved in a narcotics investigation and was accused of lying to the judge, although the department accused the judge in turn of using the “Brady List” — a blacklist that brands officers as possibly unreliable witnesses in court — to retaliate against some officers.

Walters filed a defamation lawsuit against the County of Maricopa and the judge.

Churchill admitted there was an incident in his past that happened when he was off duty. He said there was not truth to the reports and he was exonerated of the charges.

“I’ve been dealing with it for eight years,” he said. “There is a lot about me online that has no basis in truth. I wouldn’t be here today [if it were true]. It’s embarrassing, but there is nothing I can do about it.”

Melvin said he has done nothing “illegal, immoral or unethical,” but that he’s made “some unpopular, but correct, decisions,” that led to retaliation against him.

A Google search of Melvin shows contemporary media reports that he resigned from his previous job in Port Arthur after less than two years rather than being fired.

Additionally, he was placed on administrative leave from the Salt River department at a time of upheaval within the department, according to reports.

Overall, the candidates praised the officers in the Globe Police Department, citing turnover and broken community relations for its problems.

“This department has excellent officers who are looking for leadership,” Churchill concluded. “You have to be motivational and inspirational.”

Walters said the “finger pointing has to stop and it’s going to take work. No one puts on a uniform and says, ‘I think I’m going to fail today.’”

“I don’t think it’s broke: it’s misaligned,” Cota said. “Focus on what’s right you can easily fix what’s wrong.”

Melvin concluded, “treat them with dignity and respect: Make it so all officers are happy here.”


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