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Former County Attorney Rick Romley says Mesa City Council needs to show support for Chief Ramon Batista

Posted at 6:19 PM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-07 11:00:43-04

MESA, AZ — Recent news of a vote of "no confidence" on Chief Ramon Batista has prompted former top state law enforcement officer, Rick Romley, to speak out.

Romley was the independent authority tasked with investigating the culture within the Mesa Police Department about one year ago.

He says that what he found was a department in crisis, where a systematic culture of abuse of power was evident.

"I found out that the officer's files (disciplinary) had been purged to a certain extent and that was due to a previous chief (prior to Batista), he made that decision and I did not understand that," said Romley.

Romley says his investigation of two recent cases of alleged abuse of power showed a clear abuse of power.

"You don't need to go in with force immediately just because a person is not being fully 100% cooperative. If they are not a threat or a danger to the officers," he adds.

He signals a lack of "leadership training" for Sergeants and Lieutenants was evident, thus turning into a lack of direction for those patrolling the streets.

"I found that very troubling because it's the leaders of the department who will help the officers the most, as they do their jobs on the streets."

Romley admits Chief Batista has come on to lead a department having to change a "culture" that has been around for years.

"Changing culture is very difficult but this Chief (Batista) is committed to doing the right thing and I think he has the community on his side."

ABC15 reached out to the current city council for comment on the recent vote of "no confidence" from both the Mesa Police Association and the Mesa Fraternal Order of Police. They responded to our request with this statement:

The Mayor and Mesa City Council fully support the brave women and men of the Mesa Police Department, including Chief Batista and his leadership team. The tireless work of our officers has brought Mesa’s crime level to historic lows and made it one of the safest big cities in America.

As for the Fraternal Order of Police, their "no confidence" vote came on Monday, days after the Mesa Police Association. The FoP statement reads in part:

Today, the Mesa Fraternal Order of Police Mesa, formally endorsed a vote of no confidence against Chief of Police Ramon Batista. The FOP joins the Mesa Police Association, which made its declaration last week. Together, the FOP and MPA represent nearly all police officers in Mesa and a number of law enforcement support staff. A vote of the members will take place between now and May 16.