A just-released audit of the Maricopa Police Department showed 54 percent of citizens surveyed put the department's reputation at "poor to unsatisfactory."
"There was room for improvement here," said Brenda Fischer, who took over as city manager in May.
Fischer ordered the audit in response to complaints from citizens and employees. The review was conducted by Citygate Associates, LLC, and cost $42,000.
"We've struggled through some morale problems," said Fischer. "This audit allows us to be aligned and headed in the same direction."
She pledged accountability and transparency, starting with the audit that looked at nearly 200 internal affairs investigations over more than three years.
The review found employees had "little confidence" in internal affairs investigations, and many of the investigations dragged on too long.
Auditors recommended an independent third party review of these cases to "re-establish confidence."
Auditors also flagged an unusually high number of citizen complaints, writing that the department's been called the "last-chance department" for hiring officers with prior problems or credibility issues.
"I'm not a second-chance chief. I'm here because I feel that this city and police department has huge potential," said Chief Steve Stahl, of the Maricopa Police Department.
Stahl took over this week after serving as interim chief the past few months.
They are striving and starved to do good work. We need to give them a chance," said Stahl.
Stahl said he plans to change schedules soon to hold daily briefings with patrol officers to improve communication. Currently, officers work 12-hour shifts, three days a week – a schedule that does not allow for a briefing at the beginning of an officer's shift.
He also said he has an open-door policy, which he believes has made a difference already within the department.
As for the internal investigations, he said they don't know yet whether they'll take another look on their own or call in outside help to review the cases.