According to The Arizona Republic, authorities are investigating a police officer, Steven Poulos, for reportedly threatening to shoot the mayor of Phoenix, Kate Gallego, if she defunded the police department. During a briefing in late October, a group of officers talked about the progressive movement to defund the police. According to the police report, Poulos’ sergeant recalled Poulos stating the following in reference to Mayor Gallego: “If the mayor defunds the police, I’m going to shoot her.” As we’ll get into below, however, several officers interviewed by a detective called in from another department to investigate remembered his reported words differently—some more explicitly than others.
In response to this statement, however, the sergeant reportedly countered him, saying, “You’re not going to shoot the mayor.” The reported reply from Poulos? “That’s a promise.” After the meeting, however, Poulos reportedly told the sergeant he was joking. Now he’s under internal affairs investigation, the report of which has not yet been released. The Phoenix Police Department also called in Tempe to criminally investigate.
According to the Tempe police report, officers interviewed remembered Poulos’ alleged statement differently. One officer said he recalled Poulos stating that if the police department were defunded, “the first person on my list is the mayor.” Another officer remembered it as much more explicit: “If they defund the police, I’ll go over the mayor’s house and shoot it up.”
In speaking to the detective from the Tempe Police Department, three officers said they believed it was venting, not a threat Poulos would actually act on. Still, according to Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, prosecutors are reviewing the case for any possible charges. According to the police report, the Tempe detective submitted the case for review of charges of making a terrorist threat and threatening or intimidating someone.
According to the Republic, a spokesperson for the Phoenix police said in an email to the outlet that Poulos is on administrative leave. The same outlet reports that Poulos declined to give a statement to the Tempe detective. Early reporting from local outlet KTAR said the officer was initially assigned to duties at home, and that the mayor received additional police protection.
Democratic Rep. Norma Torres tweeted about the alleged incident.
You can check out our explainers about what the defund the police movement entails, or check out the discussion in video form below.