Today, the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Arizona (CLEAA), is joining with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association and the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association in calling for the immediate resignation, or if need be termination, of Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia.
Chief Garcia has had a rocky tenure, at best, with his personnel over the last year. He has been described as authoritative, arrogant, and a bully. But recent events involving a Phoenix Police Officer have gone beyond all normal conflicts.
Phoenix Police Officer Craig Tiger, a twelve year veteran of the force, committed suicide in November this year, after a long battle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Officer Tiger developed PTSD after he was forced to shoot, on duty, a person who was threatening citizens with a weapon. According to Tiger, his symptoms started immediately. He began abusing alcohol and developed suicidal ideations. Ultimately, he made a plan to commit suicide, and began driving towards his family’s cabin near Payson when he was pulled over by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department and arrested for Driving Under the Influence of alcohol. Officer Tiger would later say that that arrest saved his life. But is also cost him his job.
That’s where the Phoenix Police Department, and specifically Chief Garcia, failed Officer Tiger. Thanks to a “zero-tolerance” policy, Tiger was ultimately fired from the Phoenix Police Department, which also had the side of effect of cancelling his insurance coverage. Those involved with Tiger’s appeal, to keep his job, described Chief Garcia as cold and unresponsive as he listened to the story of Tiger’s plight with PTSD, a condition he developed from simply doing his job. A little over a year later, Officer Tiger took his own life.
In the aftermath, both Phoenix Police Labor Associations, and even a Phoenix City Councilman, have called for Chief Garcia’s termination. We agree. To date, Chief Garcia has refused to accept any responsibility for Officer Tiger’s death. This is unacceptable.
CLEAA is calling for all police departments, across the state, to abandon these so called “zero-tolerance” policies. We, as law enforcement professionals, recognize that we must be held accountable for our actions. With that being said, many options exist, besides termination from employment, for dealing with these incidents. Police Officers are exposed and subjected to far too many critical and dangerous incidents, throughout their careers, to be thrown away like garbage from their Departments.
Nationally, two percent of the public, or a little over seven million people, will suffer from the effects of PTSD. The statistics for law enforcement personnel are far worse. It is estimated that thirteen percent of Police Officers will develop PTSD symptoms throughout their careers. It becomes even worse for our Police Officers who are also military veterans: more than thirty percent of that population will develop PTSD.
We need to help our Police Officers, not throw them away, when they develop illnesses as a result of the job they do so courageously. Clearly, Chief Garcia does not understand this, and so he must go. We urge the City Manager and the City Council of Phoenix to immediately terminate his employment.
Officer Tiger’s final written words, before his death, are poignant and clearly summarize how Police Officers across this state feel:
You [Chief Garcia] and the city of Phoenix failed me, plain and simple. Police work is hard, I’ve seen everything — every way a person can die, I’ve seen. No excuse! Just not as strong as I thought I was.
Our mission now, as law enforcement professionals could not be clearer: there should never be another tragedy like Officer Tiger. We must take better care of the men and women who take care of our communities.
Questions about this media release may be directed to:
Government Affairs Director
Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Arizona
(520) 360-1681 JasonWinsky@gmail.com