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.

We want to hear from you.

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

Arizona News


David Veenstra

Arizona gets $10.3M in federal funding to restore ecosystem

The U.S. Department of the Interior is investing $10.3 million to restore Arizona's lands and waters this year.

25 minutes ago

(City of Glendale Photo)...

Police search for suspect after 2 people were shot in Glendale

Police are searching for a suspect who allegedly shot two people in Glendale early Saturday.

2 hours ago

(Facebook Photo/Scottsdale Police Department)...

4 people stabbed during early-morning melee at Scottsdale bar

A suspect is in custody after four people were stabbed early Saturday during a violent altercation at a bar in Scottsdale.

4 hours ago

Paella featuring lobster tail, jumbo prawns, diver scallops, mussels, chorizo, arborio rice, Englis...

David Veenstra

Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale opens new restaurant Faro & Brag

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa opened its new restaurant, "Faro & Brag," in Scottsdale featuring modern cuisine and outdoor seating.

5 hours ago

View of midtown Phoenix. (Phoenix Business Journal Photo)...

Audrey Jensen/Phoenix Business Journal

Phoenix seeks applicants to turn vacant land into mixed-use development

The city of Phoenix is seeking developers for several infill parcels it owns for new housing and commercial projects.

6 hours ago

Velvet Road is one of the four performances as part of Peoria's Music in March concert series. (Peo...

Arin Ducharme

Music in March concerts return to Peoria every Sunday

Music in March at Paloma Community Park returns to Peoria. The concerts will take place at Paloma Community Park near Lake Pleasant Parkway.

7 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Fiesta Bowl Foundation

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade is excitingly upon us

The 51st annual Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe is upon us! The attraction honors Arizona and the history of the game.

(KTAR News Graphic)...

Boys & Girls Clubs

KTAR launches online holiday auction benefitting Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley

KTAR is teaming up with The Boys & Girls Clubs of the Valley for a holiday auction benefitting thousands of Valley kids.


Canvas Annuity

Interest rates may have peaked. Should you buy a CD, high-yield savings account, or a fixed annuity?

Interest rates are the highest they’ve been in decades, and it looks like the Fed has paused hikes. This may be the best time to lock in rates for long-term, low-risk financial products like fixed annuities.

Mesa police chief announces two investigations, promises change