Thursday, September 6, 2007

Mesa cop makes obscene gesture at pro-immigrant protesters

Mesa police plan to discipline an officer who admitted making an obscene gesture as he drove past pro-immigrant protesters Wednesday in a marked police vehicle.

Sgt. Mike Doherty, a 20-year veteran, admitted he made obscene gestures "due to his general distaste for protesters," according to Holly Hosac, a Mesa police spokeswoman.

Doherty was in uniform when he passed about 30 members of Immigrants Without Borders, an immigrant advocacy group that has protested in the past against crackdowns on undocumented immigrants by Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The group was protesting peacefully at Alma School Road and Main Street. Several group members reported an officer displaying an obscene gesture twice as he drove past them. Information from witnesses led police to identify Doherty.

"While Doherty stated that he did not know what the demonstration was about, he acknowledged his actions were inappropriate and unprofessional," Hosac wrote in a press release.

Police Chief George Gascón said the department is required to respect the Constitutional rights of everyone, saying, "there is no justifiable reason for this type of behavior."

Police said disciplinary action against Doherty is pending but did not elaborate.