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Phoenix PD investigates top cops for secret recordings

Posted at 10:24 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-30 01:24:29-04

PHOENIX — A pair of Phoenix police commanders are under internal investigation because of an ABC15 report that broadcast secret recordings of multiple high-level officials accusing Chief Jeri Williams of misleading the public.

A police spokesperson confirmed John Collins and Gabe Lopes are facing an ongoing probe but declined to comment further.

An attorney for the commanders emailed ABC15 the following response.

“No comment, other than to say that Commanders Collins and Lopez are two of the finest officers in the Department who have done nothing wrong, as our pending lawsuit against the City will unequivocally prove,” wrote Stephen Montoya, their attorney.

SECRET RECORDINGS: Top cops say Chief Williams misled public about protest scandal 

Collins, Lopez and a third officer, Lawrence Hein, are suing the city after Chief Williams demoted them from assistant chiefs to commanders in the wake of a massive scandal involving protesters falsely charged as gang members.

In a series of reports titled “Politically Charged,” ABC15 irrefutably proved that Phoenix officers colluded with county prosecutors to invent a gang and then charge protesters as members. The evidence was fabricated, and officials lied to a confidential grand jury to obtain the charges.

Williams has repeatedly claimed she was not informed of the plan.

But the recordings capture the department’s second-in-command, Executive Assistant Chief Mike Kurtenbach, telling Collins and Lopez that Williams misled the public and city council when she claimed she didn’t have knowledge of the case.

“The boss herself knew about this for months,” Kurtenbach said on one recording from August 2021. “We didn’t hide it.”

Kurtenbach told Collins and Lopez that they got “f---ed” when Williams demoted them and said it was impossible the Chief didn’t know what was happening.

“I thought, how is that f---ing possible? Well, it’s not,” Kurtenbach told Collins. “It’s not, that [Williams], that nobody knew about this. Nobody, including [then-City Manager Ed Zuercher], until February. It’s just crazy to me.”

Chief Williams announced her retirement two weeks after ABC15 broadcast the recordings.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at dbiscobing@abc15.com.