Investigation of Buckeye police finds falsified crime stats, other violations

Jun 6, 2019, 4:05 AM | Updated: 4:56 pm
(Facebook Photo/Buckeye AZ Police Department)...
(Facebook Photo/Buckeye AZ Police Department)
(Facebook Photo/Buckeye AZ Police Department)

PHOENIX – An independent investigation of a West Valley suburb ranked among Arizona’s safest cities revealed that the police department has falsified crime statistics.

The investigation also led to the departure of a Buckeye police sergeant accused of bullying and other violations.

The in-depth probe was in response to an anonymous letter sent to the city manager and several council members in September 2017 accusing police leaders of corruption and bullying.

Copeland Investigations was hired in December 2017 to conduct the investigation.

The report, which is dated Feb. 14, 2019 and was made public Wednesday, is 270 pages long along with 5,000 pages of supporting evidence.

The investigation focused on five members of the force, four of whom ended up being disciplined for policy violations.

One of them, Sgt. James Virgadamo, resigned when faced with termination, the city said in a press release. The investigation found that he mistreated co-workers and altered crime statistics.

“James Virgadamo engaged in a pattern of bullying and harassing behavior that particularly targeted several of his fellow sergeants, created a toxic work environment, and disrupted the good order and efficiency of the Buckeye Police Department,” the report says.

Chief Larry Hall served a 40-hour suspension in November 2018 for oversight deficiencies and unbecoming conduct.

Hall was also cited for allowing the appearance of a conflict of interest between the department and the security firm called Blue Knights that he formed with Lt. Gary McGeough.

McGeough received a written reprimand for his involvement with the firm.

Lt. Charles Arlak was suspended for 20 hours for misclassifying crime statistics and failure to adequately supervise crime reporting.

In all, 14 allegations were investigated, and more than half were found to be credible.

Eight were sustained, two were classified as not sustained and four were determined to be unfounded.

In addition to the discipline, the department reassigned personnel working on crime reporting, increased training for classifying crimes and began the transition to a new FBI reporting system.

The department also passed an Arizona Department of Public Safety audit on crime reporting, the city said.

In April, home security company SafeWise ranked Buckeye as Arizona’s second-safest city based on 2017 FBI crime reports.

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Investigation of Buckeye police finds falsified crime stats, other violations