Phoenix's police chief was fired Thursday after officials said he ignored a direct order from supervisors and held an unsanctioned news conference to demand a new two-year contract.
City Manager Ed Zuercher told reporters in his own ensuing news conference that he hadn't planned on firing Chief Daniel V. Garcia.
'We don't hold press conferences without communication between departments and the city manager's office," Zuercher said.
Garcia, in his news conference, told reporters: "If I'm to be terminated for upholding the highest policing standards, that will be a first in policing and a disgrace to our city. Our city management needs to decide whether the police department is to be run by the unions or this police chief."
Although the firing was sudden by city officials' description, Garcia was a controversial figure since his hiring in 2012, especially inside his department.
The firing came as two Phoenix police unions were in the process of gathering no-confidence ballots on Garcia from members, and it was clear the chief had lost the confidence of union leaders.
A recent post on the Phoenix Law Enforcement Assn.'s website - titled "Chief Garcia's Good Ol' Boy Network" - accused Garcia of "totalitarian management strategies" intended to "ensure loyalty from the group out of fear of retaliation." Most of the posts on the site's main page were dedicated to criticizing the chief.
Garcia also earned a drubbing from at least one City Council member after he didn't attend a two-hour council meeting Wednesday in which residents "voiced concerns about law enforcement and community engagement," according to Councilman Sal DiCiccio, who called the absence troubling.
"His policies have resulted in a severe drop in morale among our rank-and-file police officers," DiCiccio said in a statement Thursday, adding in a message on Twitter that he was "pleased" by the firing. "That drop in morale has an impact on how our officers do their jobs and how they protect our citizens."
In another message on social media, DiCiccio said he couldn't recall the chief asking for more personnel or funding, "and don't remember him ever saying anything at a budget meeting."
Union officials were especially worried about Garcia's handling of a former officer named Craig Tiger who, apparently haunted by an incident in which he fatally shot a suspect wielding a bat, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, fired from his job after a drunk driving arrest, and then committed suicide.
The department had also been criticized by some community members after an officer shot Rumain Brisbon, 34, an unarmed black man, in early December.
Police said the officer thought Brisbon was reaching for a gun, but it turned out Brisbon was clutching a bottle of oxycodone tablets.