Phoenix City Councilman Sal DiCiccio on Saturday called for the ouster of Police Chief Daniel V. Garcia, fanning the flames of a debate sparked by the suicide of fired Phoenix police Officer Craig Tiger.
DiCiccio said on his Facebook page that comments by Garcia about Tiger, an officer with post-traumatic stress disorder who killed himself a year after being fired over a DUI, were “disgusting.”
According to Tiger’s family and the department’s officer union, Tiger suffered PTSD following a 2012 on-duty shooting. He was arrested for DUI in June, 2013, while he was en route to kill himself, union leaders said.
“Officer Tiger was a hero who died protecting (Phoenix) citizens, but called a criminal by (the) Chief,” DiCiccio wrote, referring to comments Garcia made to a television news reporter.
After Tiger’s death last week, police unions and family members criticized Garcia and the city’s treatment of those with PTSD.
Garcia enacted a no-tolerance policy for officers arrested for DUIs months after his March 2012 appointment.
In an earlier interview with The Arizona Republic, Garcia defended his department’s mental-health support structure.
“Not only do we have programs available for our employees, but if our employees find themselves in difficult situations, they need to bring it to our attention as well,” Garcia said. “It’s a two-way street that will get you to one place, and it will get you help. But it shouldn’t be as a result of a criminal action.”
DiCiccio said his call for Garcia’s firing was not just because of the way he handled himself after Tiger’s suicide, but a history of heavy-handed leadership that has led to low morale in the department.
“I just think that this administration has created nothing but havoc in that department,” he said later Saturday. “This is just one example. I just think it’s time for the city of Phoenix to be looking for someone else.”
Garcia issued a statement via e-mail Saturday afternoon.
“As the Chief of Police, I will continue to focus on my duties and responsibilities while we work together to find solutions that are in the best interests of our community and our employees,” Garcia wrote.
In a written response for comment, City Manager Ed Zuercher said Phoenix has an “outstanding police department.”
“I am reviewing all the information this weekend, and I have spoken with the chief and labor leaders about potential resolutions to the issues that have been raised,” he said.
Joe Clure, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said “there is clearly a leadership crisis in the Phoenix Police Department.”
He said he could not speculate on what effect, if any, DiCiccio’s comments would have.
Mayor Greg Stanton, who said he had not yet heard DiCiccio’s comments, was critical when told about them.
“That is not appropriate,” he said while attending a city event.
Stanton said that elected officials who call for the termination of a city employee are violating the municipal charter.
Officials from PLEA and the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association this week wrote a letter to Zuercher, criticizing Garcia’s treatment of Tiger and demanding a departmental overhaul in the treatment of employees suffering from PTSD.
Former Phoenix police officer Craig Tiger’s death has sparked anger in the community because those who knew him say it could have been prevented.
“We do a good job of treating our physically wounded and now it is time to step up and do a better job of treating our psychologically wounded,” the letter stated.
DiCiccio’s political stances have not always aligned with those of police unions. The two publicly clashed on the recently defeated Proposition 487, a ballot initiative that sought to end the city’s employee-pension system for new non-public safety hires.
When asked for comment on DiCiccio’s comments, PLEA Vice President Ken Crane agreed that the agency’s low morale was “unprecedented.”
“I think he’s probably echoing the sentiments of a lot of the rank and file cops out there,” Crane said. “I think a lot of our officers are just very fed up with this chief.”
12 News and Republic reporters Mark Carlson, Justin Price and D.S. Woodfill contributed to this article.