To land the unheard-of perk of a sworn officer as a full-time chauffeur and body guard the police chief in Arizona’s biggest city — the nation’s fifth largest — concocted “credible threats” and on-duty accidents that her own agency has no official record of.
Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams arranged an “off-book” transfer of a sworn officer from the mayor’s security detail to serve as her personal driver and security guard, records obtained by Judicial Watch show. The extraordinary diversion of law enforcement resources comes as the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) suffers through a dire staffing crisis and a perplexing 600 vacancies. In the last four decades the City of Phoenix has never provided a driver or security officer for a police chief, only the mayor.
Judicial Watch launched an investigation after veteran rank and file officers as well as credible police labor sources complained about the chief’s new driver/personal guard, Phoenix Police Detective Liz Ruelas. The department’s official explanation to staff was that Chief Williams had been in two on-duty accidents and that she received “credible threats” after the PPD ’s aggressive response to protestors at a Trump rally in August 2017.
A local newspaper story described the rally as an “initially peaceful event that ended in police deploying pepper spray and non-lethal projectiles against a crowd of thousands.“ The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) accused the PPD of failing to protect the First Amendment Right of demonstrators and sued the department for refusing to release pubic records of the debacle.
As part of the investigation Judicial Watch interviewed multiple civilian and law enforcement sources and filed an Arizona public records request with the City of Phoenix and the PPD for information surrounding Chief Williams’ special arrangement. The request specifically asks for files related to the purported on-duty accidents and “credible threats” that led to the chief’s off-book transfer of a detective to serve as a personal driver and guard. In its response, the PPD states that it has no records related to “credible threat” or “assignment documentation” involving Williams.
The PPD claims that it is still searching for records of the chief’s accidents, which sources tell Judicial Watch likely never occurred. “Officers are going to emergency high-risk calls without a backup while the chief gets a traveling buddy,” a veteran PPD official said. “Many on the street describe this as ‘stuck on stupid.’ It’s shameful, shortsighted and selfish.”
Another Arizona law enforcement official explained that “officers everyday around the country, the moment they hit the street, collide with the reality of credible threats. That’s why they’re given guns and badges and not their own personal security detail.” A cop who has served decades in the PPD said when officers are involved in accidents with their police vehicle they are subsequently designated as able to drive themselves in a safe manner or terminated.
“They’re not given their own personal driver,” the law enforcement veteran confirmed. Before getting transferred to shadow the chief, Detective Ruelas was part of the mayor’s security detail, according to records obtained by Judicial Watch. The mayor’s detail includes five detectives at a cost of $734,870 to taxpayers, the records show. A former Phoenix detective who worked on the mayor’s security detail told Judicial Watch that the unit was never assigned to anyone outside of the mayor.
In her short time as Phoenix Police Chief, Williams has been embroiled in a lot of controversy. She took over the agency in October 2016 and by the summer of 2017 implemented a restrictive sanctuary policy banning officers from contacting the feds after arresting an illegal alien and forbidding them from asking about suspects’ immigration status.
The order violates key provisions of a state law upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court and leaves the city vulnerable to costly lawsuits. Judicial Watch was the first to expose the abrupt policy revision last summer after obtaining a copy of the new chief’s sanctuary Immigration Procedures. Judicial Watch subsequently uncovered records that reveal the PPD’s sanctuary policies were crafted with the help of a leftist group that demanded the change after a closed-door session with Williams.
Besides forbidding questioning suspects regarding place of birth, country of citizenship and legal status in the United States, the policy says that transportation of illegal aliens to ICE by officers has been eliminated for civil immigration violations unless the illegal alien “consents to a transport.” Both restrictions violate key provisions of a 2010 Arizona law known as Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act (SB1070).