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Phoenix police higher ups dodge discipline after discrimination

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The involvement of the Phoenix Police Department in the 2013 Presidential Inauguration continues to spark controversy.

In December, the Equal Opportunity Department for the city of Phoenix determined that top police brass violated discrimination rules when they used race and gender as part of the selection process in putting together the team of officers to travel to Washington, D.C.

Now, there are more accusations of unfair treatment, this time as it relates to the discipline process for that misconduct.

According to the EOD, its final report was to be turned over to the Professional Standards Bureau of the police department, commonly known as internal affairs, to determine if any police policies were violated and if so, what discipline would be handed out.

But instead, Assistant City Manager Ed Zuercher stepped in. Zuercher issued Police Chief Daniel Garcia, Assistant Police Chief Tracy Montgomery and Commander Geary Brase a letter of concern.

"I took that report, I consulted with the human resources director and the equal opportunity director to make sure that what I was going to do was in conformance with city practice. And I issued this letter of concern to the chief the assistant chief and the commander," Zuercher said.

Joe Clure, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, which is the union who represents rank and file officers, said what happened is a complete deviation from normal procedure.

"A supervisor who commits an act of discrimination or EEO violation, is supposed to be referred to a disciplinary review board for a determination of a suspension of one to five days off," Clure said.

The protocol is documented in Phoenix police operations orders.

"That clearly did not happen in this case because you have what's being labeled a letter of concern, which quite frankly, I've never heard of in my 30-plus years on the Phoenix Police Department," Clure said.

Garcia talked about the findings of the EOD as well as the actions of the city regarding the letter of concern and the deviation from protocol. 

When asked if he considered the letter discipline, Garcia said he looked at it as "an awareness memorandum that tells our department that we need to be cognizant of this issue."

Garcia also said he was not going to call for an internal investigation of himself or the two other police managers for violating police policy because the issue is now over and the city handled it.

"I don't believe for a second that this was misconduct and I think that's the difference. That's why there's a letter of concern rather a letter of reprimand or discipline. I don't believe this was misconduct. I absolutely do not … from the onset," said Garcia.

"They handled the matter, alright, but they didn't handle it appropriately, in my opinion, because the policy is very clear. If we're going to take policies for what they mean then we need to follow the policies up and down the chain," Clure said.

The EOD finding that sustained discrimination makes Officer Barry Jacobs very happy. He is one of the five white male officers who originally filed a grievance the selection process when they learned that their seniority took a backseat to females and minorities when it came to being chosen to go to D.C.

"I was very pleased with the EOD results. They basically made the correct decision. I wasn't surprised when they told us that the city discriminated against us. This is EOE 101. This was so flat out discriminatory that I can't even think of anything they even did to hide it," said Jacobs.

But Jacobs is steaming made about the lack of accountability that followed.

"It seems that over the last several years higher ups and managers in this department get to play by a different set of rules than the rank and file officers and they get treated differently," said Jacobs.

When Garcia started with the department in May of 2012, he touted accountability and transparency.

"I believe very strongly in the transparency and accountability of not only my position but of this police department. I have preached that from the minute I got here and I stand by that 100 percent," Garcia said.

CBS 5 News asked Garcia how he can justify not asking for an internal affairs investigation after a sustained allegation of discrimination.

"Diversity sometimes just doesn't happen. Sometimes you have to work to ensure diversity. And that process sometimes is difficult," Garcia said. "Once these issues came to our knowledge there was talk with our HR department. I was briefed on where we were and I made the decision to go ahead and just go by seniority, keep it as simple as possible."

After several white, male officers filed a grievance, the department was forced to redo the selection process.

Garcia said that because in the end race and gender were not considered, the correct people based on training and seniority went on the trip and no one was harmed. According to Garcia, that is why there were no policy violations by him or his command staff. He believes the process worked.

"If somebody had been denied that trip and two months before anybody left it hadn't been fixed I think that would have been the difference," Garcia said.

The union boss disagrees.

"It is absolutely hypocritical when you sit there and preach nobility of policing the purpose of policing, accountability and integrity and then you have a situation that transpires like this," Clure said.

He went on to say that this he believes it's going to cause confusion when his member officers are found responsible for violations of EEO rules and it comes time for their discipline.

"When you have disparate treatment across the ranks and particularly at the highest ranks, this is a failure in leadership," Clure said.

Garcia does not believe this presents any problem with holding officer accountable for violations in the future.

"Everybody will be treated fairly and equitably and accountability will be there, in every case," Garcia said.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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