MESA, Ariz. (FOX 10) -- Mesa Police Chief Ramon Batista has responded to the results of a vote of no confidence against him.
In a statement released Wednesday, the Mesa Fraternal Order of Police said of the 564 police department employees who responded to the vote, 95% of them said they had no confidence in Chief Batista, with only 23 employees saying they had confidence in the chief.
"He is no longer welcome in the Mesa Police Department. He is no longer welcome in our home and we'd like him to leave," said Nate Gafvert, President with the Mesa Police Association.
“Morale has never been worse at the Mesa Police Department,” said Will Biascoechea, President of
Mesa Fraternal Order of Police, in the statement. “Through his ineffective leadership and intimidation of
police officers, Chief Batista has created a toxic environment that puts both police officers and
citizens in danger."
Results from the no-confidence vote came one year after a video showing an unarmed black man, since identified as Robert Johnson, being beaten by Mesa Police officers was released. At the time, Chief Batista tried to do damage control.
"That's not the training expectations that I have for officers in a situation where somebody doesn't want to sit down," said Chief Batista.
"Throwing our officers under the bus and making dramatic changes to how things are done overnight does nothing but cause to hesitate, and hesitation gets officers and citizens hurt and killed," said Gafvert.
"What Mesa Police did to Mr. Johnson has caused a permanent scarring, physically and mentally to him," said Benjamin Taylor, an attorney for Johnson. "These officers should have been fired, should have been in the court of law facing criminal charges with what they did."
The five officers involved never faced charges, and Johnson has now filed a lawsuit against Mesa Police in civil court,
The union said the scrutiny that officers have received in the aftermath of the Johnson incident is unfair.
"We bring the 6 o'clock news with us on every call. Our patrol officers have cameras. So we bring that video. We know that video is going to be there. Then, when it looks terrible or an officer uses an expletive in the middle of a fight and then they get scrutinized for it, it's ridiculous," said Gafvert.
"Everybody talks about the victims. Well, our officers are the victims," said Will Biascoechea, President of the Mesa Fraternal Order of Police. "We are paid to win. When we show up to a call, do you pay your officers to lose? No, you pay them to win. So when we go there, we take action and we win. Now if you don't comply, we're still going to win."
Chief Batista released a statement in response to the vote's result.
“The Mesa Police Department’s mission is and always has been to protect and serve the people of Mesa. We work together with City leaders and the community to prevent and reduce crime and to ensure justice by building trust, showing respect and preserving human rights.
As a command staff, we are committed to leading this department and supporting its officers as they carry out their duties. Together we have experienced tremendous growth and faced challenges that in the end will make us better. We will continue to build stronger relationships within the department and throughout the community.
I am proud to serve the City of Mesa as the Police Chief and to lead the men and women of the Mesa Police Department.”
According to data released by Mesa Police, there are an estimated 761 sworn officers, and an estimated 462 professional staff members on the force, with the actual numbers varying slightly due to weekly or monthly retirements, attrition, and other factors. As it's an anonymous survey, it is not known how many of those responded are professional staff members or sworn police officers.
Taylor said Chief Batista should not be punished for trying to change the culture.
"When the Mesa Police Union is going up against their chief, when the chief is trying to change their culture and when you have a chief trying to change their culture, the community, the mayor the city council should support that," said Taylor.
Mesa's city charter prohibits city council members from interfering with the city's administrative operations, which falls on the City Manager. FOX 10 has reached out to the city's manager, Chris Brady, for comment.