Tempe Internal Affairs cop tape recorded helping a cop he was investigating cover up his crimes
September 11, 2007 - 11:09PM
Ex-Tempe cop broke city rules in probe
Katie McDevitt, Tribune
Former Tempe internal affairs Sgt. James Potts was supposed to be the person investigating officers for poor conduct, but instead he became the one who broke the rules, according to a police report released Tuesday.
Potts retired on July 30 after Phoenix officials found the 20-year police veteran violated three Tempe policies when he coached a fellow sergeant on what to say during an internal investigation into domestic violence allegations. He was also accused of offering to redo an interview.
The sergeant’s actions came to light after the man he was investigating turned over a secret tape-recording he made capturing conversations between the two sergeants before and after the official portion of their interview, the report stated.
The sergeant Potts was investigating admitted to pushing his wife during a dispute, but Potts gave him a chance to redeem himself after the interview, the report shows.
“Do you want to do this again and then when I ask you 'Hey, did you ever assault her?’ you can just say no?” Potts was recorded asking the sergeant after the interview.
The Tribune has withheld the name of the sergeant still employed by the department because the domestic violence charges were unsubstantiated. The officer made the recording to protect himself, according to the report.
Later in the conversation, Potts told the sergeant it is a cop’s natural reaction to push someone who is “in your face.” Also, Potts admitted the incident was domestic violence, but advised his colleague not to tell Phoenix police, who were investigating the case.
After Tempe police officials listened to the secret tape, they forwarded the case to Phoenix’s internal affairs office for investigation, said Tempe police spokesman Sgt. Mike Horn.
Potts said he was joking.
“I had already had my interview, (and) he had just admitted to me that he assaulted his wife and he felt terrible ... and so I made a joke, 'Hey, will you want to do this again?” Potts told investigators. “You know he was feeling really bad ... and I felt bad for the guy.”
He retired before any discipline was handed down. Tempe police are forwarding his case to a law enforcement certifying board.
Attempts to reach Potts Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Horn said Potts was a “dedicated employee” during his lengthy career at the department.
“This is an unfortunate end to an otherwise good career,” he said.
Because Potts was found to have been dishonest, Horn said other internal affairs cases the sergeant handled will be reviewed for any problems. But officials said the incident appears to be isolated. Horn would not say how many cases will have to be reviewed.
Changes have since been made regarding the way Tempe police handle internal affairs incidents to prevent any officer dishonesty in the future, Horn said.
The department will now put an extra officer in the room during internal affairs interviews, Horn said.