|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Wednesday, 17 November 2010 00:00|
Cottonwood Police Chief Jody Fanning was disciplined Monday, Nov. 15, after an internal affairs investigation found he acted unprofessionally during a confrontation with a longtime Cottonwood merchant who accused the chief of using excess force Sept. 23.
It was the third internal affairs investigation into police business announced during the last two months.
According to Fanning, City Manager Doug Bartosh verbally warned him Nov. 15 to refrain from making unprofessional statements after the chief told Tom Mulcaire, owner of a Cottonwood landscaping supply business, “You don’t run the police department anymore.”
Fanning made the statement during an argument with Mulcaire over whether one of Mulcaire’s delivery trucks attempted to evade an Arizona Motor Vehicle Division checkpoint.
While detaining the truck driver at the supply store, located in the 700 block of State Route 89A, shortly before 9:30 a.m., Fanning got an earful from Mulcaire and his wife, Kami, when he insisted the driver get the truck weighed and inspected at a nearby checkpoint.
A videotape of the confrontation shows both Mulcaires cussing at police and insisting on their freedom of speech. Both questioned Fanning’s authority to insist on the weigh-in and inspection when the driver took a route that prevented him from seeing the checkpoint or a sign warning of its presence.
The truck avoided a lengthy stretch of State Route 89A where the checkpoint was located by driving to the landscaping supply’s back entrance, where Fanning made the initial stop.
Mulcaire said it was normal practice for his drivers to take the back entrance although the front entrance accesses State Route 89A.
During the initial stop, Fanning told the driver he was obligated to get the truck weighed and inspected because he was within a two-mile radius of the checkpoint and was now aware of his duty.
The driver agreed to drive to the checkpoint. Fanning followed on State Route 89A. As the truck approached the landscaping supply store, the driver pulled into the front entrance and stopped.
Instead of complying, the driver apparently called Mulcaire on his cell phone, Fanning said. Mulcaire allegedly urged the driver to pull in at the front entrance.
“I felt bad for the driver,” Fanning said. “He had to choose between disobeying his boss and possibly losing his job or disobeying me and getting arrested.”
According to the Mulcaires, Fanning arrived at the front entrance, exited his patrol vehicle and began yelling at the driver, cursing and accusing him of evading a weigh station checkpoint.
The Mulcaires accuse Fanning of then pushing the driver in the shoulder hard enough to turn him around.
“He runs up to my driver, and with the palm of his hand, hit my driver in the shoulder hard, turned him around and shooed him toward his truck,” Mulcaire said.
Fanning said he grabbed the driver’s shoulder, but did not shove him. The driver did not obey Fanning’s order to get the truck weighed and may have been subject to arrest at that moment. This allowed Fanning to go “hands on” the driver, he said.
Physical contact between Fanning and the truck driver took place before an officer with a lapel camera arrived at the scene and is not shown in the police video. The video shows the Mulcaires calling officers names, cursing them, and yelling that police were trespassing and harassing them.
“I will do whatever it takes to stop you, but that truck is not moving, it’s on my property,” Mulcaire stated in the video, drawing a line in the dirt with his foot.
Fanning, who briefly appears in the video, can be heard telling the Mulcaires that the driver is going to get the truck weighed or both of them would be subject to arrest.
Ultimately, Mulcaire’s truck was weighed as Fanning insisted and passed inspection.
Mulcaire and his wife were cited for disorderly conduct and obstructing justice and given a summons to appear in court.
Fanning said many local truckers are upset with the frequency of checkpoints, but the program is citywide and intended to get unsafe trucks off the road.
Fanning said recent checkpoints led to the discovery of several unsafe trucks, including one with brakes about to give out, a faulty hitch and an overweight truck carrying 10 times the weight allowed.
The investigation into Fanning’s conduct was the third internal affairs incident announced by police in the last two months.
Fanning said the increase in internal affairs investigations is due to growth in the department and his insistence that all police officers perform to the highest ethical standards, including himself.
Fanning said he had no quarrel with the city manager’s admonition because his comment did not meet professional standards.
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