FLORENCE — A Florence Police officer resigned last year amid allegations of using and dealing drugs and trading drugs for sex, although none of this was ever substantiated, authorities said.
After an initial outside investigation and review by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, “no determination could be made about the truthfulness of the allegation,” Police Chief Bruce Walls said by email to PinalCentral.
An Avondale police investigator, however, after two weeks on the case, wrote in his report that he told Walls and Pinal County Attorney’s Office personnel, “I had credible information that the allegations were true.”
Officer Michael Phillips, who had been with Florence Police for seven years, resigned in early March 2020 after a month on administrative leave while he was investigated. Walls asked the Avondale sergeant, who had been investigating at Walls’ request, to close the case and submit his report.
Walls said he did this because after Phillips’ resignation, the department could no longer compel Phillips’ participation in the probe, Walls told PinalCentral. PinalCentral received the Avondale report in response to a public records request.
Pinal County Attorney Kent Volkmer told PinalCentral he never received any police reports or submission of evidence for charges. His personnel did look into whether a defendant had valid information about a police officer selling drugs, Volkmer said. County attorney investigators met with the defendant and his attorney to hear his story.
“But ultimately the information provided was unverifiable,” Volkmer said. “It doesn’t mean it wasn’t true, we just couldn’t corroborate it in any way. … In fact there was one or two things he said that we actually found to be demonstrably false. So our office concluded that we could not reasonably rely on his assertions by themselves to bring a case,” Volkmer said.
It’s common to do “free talks” with defendants to see if they may have useful information, Volkmer said. The information this defendant provided didn’t result in him receiving a favorable sentencing recommendation or lighter sentence, Volkmer said.
The Avondale investigator, Sgt. Bill Rademacher, wrote in his report that he also met with this same defendant at the Pinal County jail. The defendant sketched out the location and layout of Phillips’ home in San Tan Valley, which Rademacher was able to partially verify. The defendant said he spent three days high on drugs at the home.
The same defendant previously told a Florence detective, who also interviewed him at the jail, that Phillips had given him several ounces of methamphetamine to sell in the summer of 2019. He also told of spending three days at Phillips’ house, where he saw Phillips and his wife taking drugs and having sex.
Another allegation was that Phillips behaved inappropriately at the scene of a traffic accident in Florence in early 2020, including showing a citizen nude photos of his wife.
Other potential witnesses did not respond to Rademacher’s interview requests.
Volkmer said the allegations are serious and they concern him, but “I can’t stress this enough, we’ve never had a case reported to us or referred to us. So I’m not dealing with all the facts.
“… I think the public deserves to know that we do take these allegations seriously. That we expect everybody, including officers, to be held accountable, to behave and act properly and follow the law.” Volkmer continued that everyone is also entitled to justice, due process and fairness, and “at this point, everybody should be reminded that to date we’ve never heard from Officer Phillips.”
Walls said he didn’t have any current information on how to contact Phillips.
“Who we’ve heard from,” Volkmer said, “essentially are people who have felony convictions who were making allegations in an attempt to get a better resolution in their cases. And I think if we just accept what everybody says at face value, I think you could get down a very dangerous path.”
Volkmer said Phillips would have to address these allegations if he ever wished to be rehired as a police officer.
County attorney personnel looked at every case Phillips was involved in to determine if the allegations would have made a difference if a defense attorney or defendant had known about them. Their conclusion was, “There were no cases we believe that this materially impacted,” Volkmer said.