After ABC15 exposed Phoenix police officers sharing and selling commemorative coins tied to hate speech, an outside law firm hired by the city to investigate will have to answer several basic but important questions.
How widespread was the possession and knowledge of the coins?
What did top police leaders know about them and when?
And maybe most important: Were Phoenix officers involved in the design and production of the coins?
The challenge coins depict a man shot in the groin by a pepper ball during an August 2017 protest. On the front, it has, “GOOD NIGHT LEFT NUT,” with a design and phrase that clearly reflect the neo-Nazi slogan, “Good Night Left Side.”
The coin was sold and shared among members of the Phoenix Police Tactical Response Team (TRU), court records show.
But a 2018 video just obtained by ABC15 appears to show that possession of the coin likely expanded beyond the TRU and was known and celebrated more widely throughout the department.
The video shows members of Patriot Movement AZ (PMAZ), which is designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group, attending an outside event in downtown Phoenix.
Phoenix police set up a table with multiple firearms on display.
Women with PMAZ then begin speaking with a uniformed sergeant, who ABC15 has not been able to identify yet.
The group talks about Trump’s last visit to Phoenix, which resulted in a large protest and a controversial police response that’s now the subject of a class-action lawsuit.
That’s when the sergeant brings up the coin voluntarily.
SERGEANT: I got friends who were involved with that last (protest).
PMAZ: Yeah, so do we.
SERGEANT: I have one of the challenge coins for (inaudible) left nut.
PMAZ: Yes! Really? Awesome.
SERGEANT: They made a challenge coin. It says, “Good Night Left Nut.”
SERGEANT: Good night left nut. Yeah.
It’s not entirely clear who sergeant is referring to when he says, “They made a challenge coin,” and whether he means officers in the department.
In the lawsuit filed by ACLU Arizona and Puente, some members of the TRU were deposed, and one specifically said that he “believed someone in the department facilitated the production of the coin.”
The Phoenix city manager, mayor, multiple council members and the main police union have called ABC15’s reporting on the challenge coin disturbing and supported the decision to launch an outside investigation.
A spokesperson for City Manager Ed Zuercher said law firm Ballard Sparr would handle the investigation.
The city also told ABC15 that Chief Jeri Williams will place officers under investigation in non-enforcement assignments pending the results of the external investigation.
It’s not clear if any officers have been identified by the department and reassigned yet.
So far, ABC15 has confirmed five officers have admitted to possessing the coin in court testimony: George Herr, Jeffrey Howell, Glenn Neville, Jay Scott, and John Sticca.
This report is part of an ongoing series of ABC15 investigative reports called “Politically Charged.” Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.