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City of Goodyear says former police chief won't be allowed back as top cop

Posted at 4:58 AM, Apr 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 14:49:39-04

GOODYEAR, AZ — The investigation was completed in December of 2019, but City of Goodyear officials are just now releasing a lengthy report detailing allegations, many that have now been sustained, against former Police Chief Jerry Geier.

Geier led the department for more than eight years, but was accused of misconduct dating back to 2015 by members of the Goodyear Police Officers Association

The complaint, filed by President of the Association Marcus Patterson, brought forth 12 allegations. He, along with several other officers accused Geier of acting in his own self-interest above that of the Goodyear Police Department, failing to discipline officers, manipulating the department's hiring process, reverse discrimination, and failing to report important information of potential criminal activity to city leaders and prosecutors.

Of the 12 allegations, seven were sustained by investigator Donald Conrad and Susan Segal, hired by the city of Goodyear to conduct a third-party investigation into the accusations being made against the then-chief.

One of the earliest reported issues involved changes Geier made to the process of promoting officers.

"Geier implemented a Chief's interview as a new component of the testing for candidates up for promotion to the rank of sergeant. Scoring for the Chief's interview was solely at the discretion of Geir," the complaint alleged.

The complaint alleged the change allowed Geier to manipulate the results, and decide which officers were promoted.
This, and other allegations also mentioned Geier's accused preferential treatment of women on the force, what the complaint called "reverse discrimination".

Investigators found Geier showed favoritism for certain female candidates applying for positions within the department by attempting to ignore information that would make them unfit for the department, one allegation detailed. Another said Geier manipulated the final scoring to ensure a specific female officer's name was on the promotions list.

All this, concluded investigators, was "an effort made by Geier to "create a record at GYPD of increased diversity, especially with regard to women, all for the sake of erasing the impact that the Celaya case had on his employment opportunities."

The investigation mentioned a previous lawsuit filed by former officer Kim Celaya accusing Goodyear Police of discriminating against female officers.

While both those claims were sustained, investigators could not say whether they occurred solely based on the gender of the officers. Both conclusions also failed to find any violations of the law or city policy.

However, Geier was found to not only have failed meet his responsibility as chief of police, but acting inappropriately when it came to reporting an officers involvement in a hit-and-run crash.

It happened in May of 2019, according to PSU Sergeant Jason Bayer, who received a call from the Surprise Police Department who relayed a complaint from a neighbor of Goodyear Officer Alison Braughton. Her "erratic" driving was caught on a nearby surveillance camera.

Bayer investigated the claim, which led him to previous reports of reckless driving reported in both Peoria and Glendale, who received a report of a hit-and-run on the same day, involving the same car Braughton was seen driving.

Goodyear police launched an internal investigation, according to the report, while the criminal investigation was handled by Glendale police. Officer Braughton was placed on administrative leave.

One month later, "Braughton's leave status was changed from administrative to "Family Medical Leave (FMLA)'", according to the complaint. "Though Bayer investigated the hit-and-run allegations, he was unable to complete the IA as he could not conduct an interview of Braughton while she was on FMLA."

Braughton resigned from the department in August of that year.

The allegation accuses Geier of refusing to provide information regarding the hit-and-run to the Maricopa County Attorney's office as part of the Brady rule, where law enforcement agencies are required to report misconduct of police officers that need to be disclosed to defendants in criminal prosecutions.

"Through multiple discussions, Geier continued to insist that there had been no investigation and thus there was no need to report to MCAO about the hit-and-run," alleged Patterson.

However, after interviewing multiple witnesses, including Bayer and other department heads, who later took it upon themselves to report the information regarding the hit-and-run to MCAO even without Geier's approval, investigators concluded Geier violated city policy, and skirted the law.

"GYPD's duty was to observe MCAO's Brady Policy to report Braughton's act of untruthfulness as Brady material," said investigators.

"Failure to do so was a violation of SOP 1100 that requires GYP to report to MCAO information that relates to the credibility of an officer and of information that 'tends to disrupt, diminish or otherwise jeopardize pubic trust in law enforcement.'"

Geier was also found to be keeping important information of his department's actions from city leaders.

Investigators found Geier denied authorizing an operation by Goodyear PD's NET enforcement team in April of that year, but cell phone records obtained by investigators showed multiple calls back and forth from Geier to involved officers, as well as text messages sent from Geier's phone asking for updates on the search for a missing woman.

While investigators found nothing inappropriate about the investigation itself, they did find Geier was dishonest when asked about his knowledge of the operations, and lied about giving orders related to it. Geier was also found to have failed to adequately inform his management about the events of the operation.

City Manager Julie Arendall says it was this investigative report, along with findings of the hearing officer assigned to Geier's appeal, and recommendations made, that played a role in deciding to uphold Geier's termination as Chief of police.

Read Arendall's letter about Geier's final determination here.