GOODYEAR, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) – Goodyear Police Chief Jerry Geier and Deputy Chief Justin Hughes have been placed on paid administrative leave amid “recent allegations of impropriety,” according to a city spokeswoman.
Tammy Vo said two more department employees were put on leave, as well, “due additional allegations of wrongdoing.”
They have been identified as Officer Kyle Cluff and Administrative Services Manager Susan Petty.
Vo did not elaborate on the specifics of the allegations.
“Placing these employees on leave is important in order to provide the neutral environment and support needed while outside counsel reviews the situation,” she said in a statement emailed to Arizona’s Family Monday night. “The City of Goodyear values the public’s trust and takes these types of accusations seriously, and is committed to conducting a thorough review.”
The Arizona Fraternal Order of Police said it is "aware of the complaints and investigations" into Geier and Hughes but declined to comment further.
"At this time, we believe commenting on an active investigation would be inappropriate," the organization's vice president, Sean Mattson, said an a written statement. "We trust that the ongoing independent investigation will be thorough. If any misconduct has occurred or laws broken, we trust that those responsible will be held accountable in the same way as any police officer or civilian would be held accountable."
An outside attorney for Udall Shumay said it is very rare to hear about a police chief and deputy chief called off the day-to-day job.
"This is unusual," said legal expert, Michael Kielsky. "It would have to be enough information that causes the city to take this very serious step of basically putting a hold on these individuals as far as their involvement in day-to-day responsibilities and getting them out of the loop and starting the investigation."
The city said said all four were put on leave within the last week, and it received a complaint less than two weeks ago.
In the meantime, another deputy chief will be in charge at the department.
The Cty won't say what the allegations are.
"More likely that is in the nature of something possibly improperly caused like a cover up, but it could be anything from fixing tickets for people or not conducting a proper investigation, not conducting proper supervision or acting in a way such that could be overall goals of a law enforcement agency," said Kielsky. "It’s not gonna be really minor. It’s gonna be something that possibly approaches a violation of law that could even be criminal, but more likely it’s just a violation of standards and procedures."
Previous lawsuit involving Hughes
Hughes was named in a 2005 federal lawsuit that was settled the following year. At the time, Hughes was a detective with the El Mirage Police Department, which was also named in the suit.
The lawsuit points to an incident in 2004 where Martina Blanchard says she came home to find both her daughters in the back of police cars.
“I see police officers around but nobody tell me what’s going on,” says Blanchard.
She says Hughes suddenly ordered officers to take her to the ground.
“I got four cops, one on each hand and one on each foot,” says Blanchard. “I tell them I can’t breath and they don’t care. They put the feet on my neck.”
Blanchard says in the end no one was arrested. The federal suit alleged civil rights violations. It was settled in 2006 for an undisclosed amount.
“I don’t understand how he can go back to be a police officer,” says Blanchard. “I’m really surprised.”
Hughes left El Mirage PD in 2006 and immediately began working for Goodyear Police. Blanchard says she hopes the City of Goodyear will do a thorough investigation.