New Phoenix Police Chief Michael Sullivan pledges reform, crime fighting
Michael Sullivan started as interim Phoenix police chief Monday, a role he could hold for up to two years following the retirement of former chief Jeri Williams.
Catch up fast: The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the Phoenix Police Department for numerous civil rights violations.
- City manager Jeff Barton said he hired an interim chief to see the city through the investigation. After that, he will conduct a nationwide search for a permanent leader, he said.
- Sullivan, who previously served as a deputy commissioner in Baltimore, helped that department enact the mandates of its 2017 federal consent decree, which stemmed from a DOJ investigation.
State of play: We got to sit down with Sullivan on Wednesday. Here's what he told us.
On the temporary assignment: He said he left his permanent gig for an interim one because he wanted to help Phoenix implement reforms that will propel the department forward.
- "(It was) the opportunity to come here and be able to leverage my skills with the great men and women of the Phoenix Police Department and this terrific community."
- He would not say whether he plans to pursue the permanent chief position.
On the DOJ investigation: Sullivan said the nature of the investigation creates an adversarial relationship between the city and the DOJ, but it doesn't need to be that way.
- "Reform is about self-assessing, self-correcting and continual improvement. That's what the Department of Justice is, I believe, looking for when they talk about reform. And that's what I'm looking for."
On violent crime: He said addressing rising levels of violent crime is a priority and he will focus on the "small percentage" of people who are causing problems and deploy resources to the "most violent places."
- "I truly believe that reform and crime fighting are not mutually exclusive. And as a matter of fact, they're dependent on each other if you're going to do it right."
On police unions: Sullivan said he's been in touch with the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association since his hiring and will work collaboratively with it.
- "What I promised them is, we won't always agree, but we're going to have an open line of communication."
- PLEA told us last month that the city did not ask its members for their input on Sullivan before hiring him.
1 fun thing to go: When asked if he'd be switching his football allegiance from the Baltimore Ravens to the Arizona Cardinals, he said yes.
- But that's because he's a two-time graduate of the University of Louisville, where the mascot is — you guessed it — a cardinal.
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