Interim Phoenix Police Chief Michael Sullivan updates on DOJ investigation, hiring struggles
PHOENIX — It’s been nearly two months since Michael Sullivan took over as interim Phoenix police chief.
The 27-year law enforcement veteran was officially sworn in during a ceremony Friday.
Sullivan was tapped to lead the department through a Department of Justice civil pattern or practice investigation after former chief Jeri Williams announced her retirement in May.
Here’s what Sullivan told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Wednesday about what he’s learned so far during his tenure, the status of the investigation and hiring struggles.
Q: What’s been your overall assessment of the Phoenix Police Department?
A: Well, my first month here has been very, very busy. I’ve been out meeting with the men and women of the police department, making briefings, being able to have those conversations one-on-one and hearing directly from the men and women out there doing this very difficult work.
I’ve also been out talking to community. I’ve been to a number of community meetings and really spent a lot of time listening and assessing … what I’ve seen is an incredible department that is incredibly understaffed. We’re working very hard to be able to to fix that. But staffing is a real issue. So I’ll put this out there right now: anybody listening that is looking for a job — an incredible job — please come join us at the Phoenix Police Department. We’re hiring.
Q: What is the key to recruitment?
A: People don’t join this job for the pay, they join because of the service and the commitment that you can have in improving the community. You have to be willing to step forward and help folks and really have that in your DNA I think is key to anything else. And then you get to be part of a city like Phoenix that is growing and has all kinds of amazing things happening. You know, I think we have a lot to offer here at the Phoenix Police Department and in Phoenix itself.
Q: Where’s the Department of Justice investigation at and where is it going?
A: I would direct you to the DOJ for comment on where it’s going. What I can tell you is we’ve been talking with them. They were actually on site here last week doing part of their investigation. Regardless of what their investigation finds, what I can tell you is we’re going to line this department to make changes, to make reforms and we’re going to do that regardless of what the DOJ finds.
Q: You’ve been known to successfully monitor or get through one of these processes somewhere else. What was the key to the success having done this before? And what are you bringing to the table to have that success here?
A: You know, it’s really becoming a self-assessing, self-correcting agency and that’s a lot in just a short sentence. Being able to identify when there’s problems and not waiting for somebody else to identify those problems and correcting them immediately is the key and then working collaboratively with the community and the department itself to institute change.
Q: Have you had an opportunity to speak to other leaders in policing around the Valley?
A: There’s incredible partnership around the Valley. I’ve got to meet a number of those leaders in law enforcement and we need to strengthen those partnerships given the challenge that we have with staffing. That’s one way that we can still be as effective as we need to be by making sure that we have those partnerships well developed.