Saturday, March 26, 2011

Buckeye police officer put on leave after argument with teens

A Buckeye police officer has been placed on paid administrative leave after she was cited on suspicion of disorderly conduct.

Corrina Griffith, 36, was cited after a heated argument with teenagers outside a grocery store in Buckeye, said Lt. Dave Hubalik, a Buckeye police spokesman.

The Police Department placed Griffith on leave the morning after the altercation while an internal investigation into her conduct is ongoing, he said. The Goodyear Police Department is conducting a criminal investigation.

"We asked Goodyear to step in for us so that there was no possible appearance of impropriety," Hubalik said. "Goodyear did all the interviews of all the people there. Basically our officers stepped out of it so that there was no influence of any manner, and Goodyear made their decision on what they needed to do."

According to a Goodyear police report, Griffith, who was not on duty, arrived at Bashas' grocery store in Verrado at about 10 p.m. March 13. She was looking for her 15-year-old stepdaughter. The teen reportedly had told her friends that night she had run away from home. Griffith said she has been upset with the girl over various family issues.

The girl was in front of the store with a group of friends - four 15-year-olds and a 17-year-old - when Griffith arrived. Witnesses said Griffith told her stepdaughter to get in the car and then used strong words in threatening language toward the group of teens, the report states.

That sparked an argument between Griffith and one of the teens, who said she "had never been so disrespected in her life," and told Griffith "she needed to act like a mom," according to the report. The two continued to call each other names, and other teens called parents to pick them up.

One parent, Stephanie Rutherford, 36, called police and later confronted Griffith, starting another "loud verbal confrontation" that could be heard in the background of one of the 911 calls, the report states. Another parent reportedly told Griffith, "I know you are a cop, act like one."

Several witnesses said Griffith had an odor of alcohol, but a Goodyear police DUI investigation found that she did not have bloodshot, watery eyes, and did not have any balance or speech issues. She refused a field sobriety test.

Griffith was cited in lieu of arrest on suspicion of misdemeanor disorderly conduct and then released. She is scheduled to appear at the Agua Fria Justice Court in Tolleson on April 21, according to police records.

"It's always disturbing when a police officer gets into trouble, but we're going to handle it just like any other citizen," said Cmdr. Ralph McLaughlin, a Goodyear police spokesman.

Hubalik said Buckeye's internal investigation will determine whether Griffith violated any department policies, including "unbecoming" conduct.

"It's an unfortunate situation, and we're going to wait to see what the internal investigation bears out. Whatever decisions are made will be done in a fair and ethical manner," Hubalik said. "We truly believe that . . . we should hold ourselves to a higher standard, and we will not tolerate this type of behavior."

Griffith, a patrol officer, joined the Buckeye Police Department about two years ago from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. She changed from full time to part time in February 2010.

Griffith is married to Buckeye police Lt. Jared Griffith, a spokesman for the department.

Goodyear police are investigating possible charges against Rutherford, who "also chose not to disengage in a disorderly event" and continued "to argue with Mrs. Griffith, which only escalated the situation," the Goodyear police report states.

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