Phoenix (AZ Central) -- The year-end video starts out innocently
enough, with photos of a squad of Phoenix police detectives enjoying
themselves on the job and at holiday parties past.
But about 10 minutes in, the images take a turn toward the macabre,
with celebratory photos quickly replaced by images of dead and
decomposing bodies the officers encountered through their work.
One slide in the presentation offers a warning before the grisly
crime-scene photos appear: "If disgusting is not your thing NOW is the
time to avoid the TV!"
Those images, first discovered following an anonymous memo to a
police lieutenant nearly a year ago, led a Phoenix review board to
recommend that police fire the investigator responsible for putting the
video together, along with an array of suspensions for other detectives
who contributed photos to the presentation.
The firing and recommended suspensions, which range from eight hours
to six weeks of unpaid leave, will be appealed once the five officers
involved are officially served with notice of their punishments,
according to the union representing Phoenix officers.
The case is also the subject of a $2.9 million notice of claim that
four officers filed against the city and police officials in August
alleging defamation and infliction of emotional distress.
The appeals are not focused on whether the involved officers deserve
to be punished for their roles in making the video, said Phoenix police
Officer Ken Crane, a vice president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement
Association, a labor group that represents some Phoenix officers.
Instead, Crane said, the union is concerned with the disparate
punishment handed down, which left the investigator who put together the
video, Detective Courtney Mayo, without a job while the supervisor who
contributed photos to the presentation received a suspension.
"We are appealing the discipline, not to say we don't think there
should be any discipline, but certainly with regard to the one officer
who was terminated was very disparate compared with the supervisor," he
Phoenix police released records of their internal probe of the
incident, including the video, still images of the offensive photos and
detailed investigative files, on Wednesday afternoon -- more than a year
after the party took place and word of the crime-scene video spread
through the department.
The officers who filed a notice of claim against the city effectively
waived confidentiality rights they are afforded under state law and are
therefore identified throughout the report. Mayo's supervisor did not
join in the potential lawsuit with the others, and her name remains
The records indicate that Mayo's supervisor in the violent-crimes
unit provided Mayo with 19 of the 30 photos included in the
presentation. The supervisor told investigators that she kept the photos
for her own comparison with medical examiners' reports and for use in a
death-investigation course she teaches. The supervisor was not at the
holiday party when the video was shown, and she told Phoenix
investigators that she was shocked by what the video contained.
"My intention, obviously, was not this kind of video or how crude it
was," the supervisor told police investigators. "That was not my
intention ... And, in hindsight, I probably should have never given
these photos to Courtney. And I, that, I'm gonna fall on the sword for
that. I should've never done that. I still didn't know it was going to
be that bad. I mean, it was terrible."
Members of the Phoenix police Professional Standards Bureau who
conducted the internal investigation into the video shared their
information with criminal investigators, who concluded no laws were
The anonymous tipster who brought the video to the attention of police administrators said otherwise.
"This behavior is not only immoral and unethical but criminal," the
tipster wrote days after the party. "A person tasked with investigating
another human being's death should be compassionate and understanding.
An officer with a personality and lust for such disgusting behavior has
no business conducting death investigations."
The officers involved, and others who once supervised the unit of
overnight detectives in the violent-crimes bureau, were suspended early
this year, and, according to the documents released Wednesday,
investigators quickly determined who had a hand in the video.
During interviews with investigators, the officers explained that
some of the photos were taken at crime scenes with their personal
cellphones for their records, some of the images were taken from the
Internet and others were of the officers receiving "buried body"
Mayo told investigators the video's purpose was to highlight the
squad's work in the past year, with visual reminders to jog the memories
of investigators. None of the photos was of an ongoing investigation,
"It wasn't even like we were laughing at it," she said. "It wasn't
even, like, funny, like 'Oh, that's a funny one.' It's not so funny, but
it's just part of our daily work. That's what it's about. It's not
about, you know, disrespecting anybody or embarrassing a family member. I
wasn't trying to be mean to anybody. Maybe, maybe I'm desensitized
beyond whatever. I don't know."
Mayo was among the detectives who filed the notice of claim against
Phoenix, alleging that police were involved in an "overzealous and
ill-informed attack on the officers."
That pending legal action left Phoenix police with little to say after the documents were released.
"The unprofessional conduct of those involved in creating this video
has been dealt with appropriately by the department," said Sgt. Trent
Crump, a department spokesman. "One employee was terminated for her part
in producing the video, and four others received suspensions. The
Phoenix Police Department is committed to ensuring the highest levels of