Mesa police chief announces two investigations, promises change

Jun 8, 2018, 11:38 AM | Updated: 7:50 pm

PHOENIX — A suburban Phoenix police chief promised change Friday, announcing two independent investigations into his department, and said he was “deeply disappointed” by his officers’ actions in several highly publicized videos that appeared to show police brutality.

One of the investigations into the Mesa Police Department will be overseen by former Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, Chief Ramon Batista said in a press conference.

The Washington D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum also was asked to investigate the department’s use of force over past three years as well as its policies, procedures and training.

“Simply put, these investigators will shine a glaring light on the areas where we have fallen short, and they will help us fix it,” Batista said.

Mesa police has been under fire this week for incidents of alleged brutality that have resulted in seven officers being placed on paid administrative leave.

Video of three incidents, all involving African-American suspects, became available this week.

“Let me be crystal clear,” said Batista, who didn’t take questions or provide further details about the cases. “I’m angry, and I’m deeply disappointed by what I saw in those videos. It’s unacceptable, and it needs to stop immediately.”

In response to the videos, Black Lives Matter Arizona held a protest Friday at the Mesa police headquarters.

Reading deliberately from a prepared statement, Batista committed himself to restoring the public’s trust.

“Preserving and protecting your safety, your trust and your faith is my highest priority,” he said. “From the bottom of my heart, I promise you we will fix this.”

Romley followed Batista to the microphone to explain why he got involved.

“I will be working to make sure that there is thoroughness, there’s objectivity into this review,” said Romley, who will report directly to Batista. “The chief is absolutely correct in that the public confidence must not be diminished in any way.”

Romley is best known as the county attorney who conducted the AzScam sting investigation that caught state lawmakers taking cash bribes on camera in the early 1990s.

Mesa Mayor John Giles applauded Batista’s “immediate and decisive action.”

“Nothing is more sacred than human rights,” Giles said in a statement. “I expect that the independent investigations launched today will result in better training and an understanding that every person our officers encounter is to be treated with respect.”

Before the afternoon news conference, Mesa police issued a statement from Batista that said, “We have lost our way.”

On Thursday, two unidentified officers were placed on leave following a review of body camera footage and an internal investigation of a May 17 incident that involved a 15-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl.

Five other officers — Jhonte Jones, Rudy Monarrez, Ernesto Calderon, Robert Gambee and William Abbiatti — already had been placed on leave for their actions during a May 23 arrest in which an unarmed man, 33-year-old Robert Johnson, was beaten. That video came to light earlier this week, when the first four suspensions were announced.

Another video (WARNING: Video contains disturbing content and language), showing a November 2017 incident, also came out this week of 29-year-old Terence Kirkpatrick being arrested by Mesa police.

Rev. Jarrett Maupin, an activist in the Phoenix area, said the officers demonstrated “aggressive and seemingly unprofessional conduct” against Kirkpatrick after allegedly calling him racial slurs and beating his head against a law enforcement vehicle.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

FILE - Border Patrol agents patrol along a line of shipping containers stacked near the border on A...
Kevin Stone

Arizona border sheriff backs protesters impeding shipping container installation

A southern Arizona sheriff said protesters have been keeping crews from stacking shipping containers at the U.S.-Mexico border, and he's good with it.
5 hours ago
(AP Photo/Oliver de Ros)...

Guatemalan man facing charges after allegedly assaulting Arizona border patrol agent

A Guatemalan man was arrested last week for allegedly assaulting a border patrol agent while he was illegally crossing the border.
5 hours ago
(Arizona Department of Transportation Flickr Photo)...

No scheduled closures on Phoenix-area freeways for third consecutive weekend

Phoenix-area drivers won't have to worry about closures on freeways for a third straight weekend as there are no scheduled projects.
5 hours ago
(Facebook Photo/Ballet Arizona -- Twitter Photo/@ArizonaCoyotes)...

Weekend guide: Here are the biggest events around metro Phoenix for Dec. 9-11

The Arizona Coyotes are back in town, more holiday festivities are underway and museums could be your next favorite winter go-to spot.
5 hours ago

Charles Barkley happy for Brittney Griner’s Russia release, feels for still-imprisoned Paul Whelan

Charles Barkley is happy fellow Valley basketball icon Brittney Griner was released from Russia in a prisoner swap, but feels for Paul Whelan.
1 day ago
(Twitter Photo/@MesaPD)...

Mesa police investigating homicide after man found killed in his boot repair shop

Mesa police are investigating the death of a man after he was found killed inside his boot repair business on Tuesday.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

(Desert Institute for Spine Care photo)...

Why DISC is world renowned for back and neck pain treatments

Fifty percent of Americans and 90% of people at least 50 years old have some level of degenerative disc disease.
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
Mesa police chief announces two investigations, promises change