Arizona Republic Blogger/ Former Cop Axed by Newspaper Under Pressure From NAACP

billrichardson.jpg
Bill Richardson
You may be familiar with the work of Bill Richardson. Until recently, Richardson wrote a blog for the Arizona Republic. We got word this week that the Republic axed Richardson's blog and if you ask Richardson, Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff was the cause for the axing.

Richardson is an ex-cop -- a 20-year veteran who spent the bulk of his career with the Mesa Police Department in its homicide and sex crimes divisions. His blog was fairly critical of Valley police agencies, most notably, the Tempe Police Department and its chief, Ryff.

Richardson's been hounding the department recently over out-of-control spending and above-average crime rates -- in other words, good journalism. The department, Richardson believes, didn't like it.


Back in June, Richardson got a letter from an elderly rape victim. In the email, the victim criticizes Richardson for bashing Ryff and one of his advisers, Charles Cobb.

"I am very disgusted with your attitude.  I am so appreciative of the entire Tempe police department because I am that elderly woman in the case.  It was the Chief who called in the FBI, Mesa crime lab, other police departments and the U.S. Marshalls," the victim writes in the email.

Richardson tells New Times he'd never written about Charles Cobbs and the person who wrote the email must have been directed by someone to include him. The tone and style of the email, Richardson feels, wasn't exactly that of a 77-year-old woman. In short, Richardson believes Ryff, upset over how Richardson had been covering his department, put the woman up to writing the email.

Richardson began asking the department questions about whether any of its members put the woman up to writing the email -- an ethical nightmare for the department -- and soon after he began poking around, his blog was canceled.

We called Tempe Police Sergeant Steve Carbajal to do a little digging of our own and were told it was "an issue between the Arizona Republic and Richardson."

We asked if we could speak with Ryff, and Carbajal said it would be "inappropriate" for Ryff to comment on a squabble between a blogger and a newspaper and to "ask the Republic about it."

So we did, and the Republic was equally worthless in terms of getting any sort of answer.

We called Republic editor Randy Lovely and were told by his assistant that he was on vacation until next week and the paper wouldn't comment.

We wanted to know what, exactly, led to the cancellation of Richardson's blog and found out the cancellation came after a complaint was filed by the NAACP and its Maricopa County leader, Reverend Oscar Tillman.

Tillman complained to the Republic that in one of Richardson's blogs he directed readers to a Web site called Tempepolicecloset.com, and on the site there were racially charged comments.

"Some of the things were very offensive," Tillman tells New Times.

None of those things, we should point out, were written by Richardson.

Richardson believes Chief Ryff -- with knowledge of how powerful Tillman is when it comes to all things race related -- directed Tillman to the site, which led to the complaint.

We asked Tillman if the Tempe Police chief prompted him to file the complaint and were told -- in a defensive manner, we might add -- "a complaint was filed by a member of the NAACP and the matter is under investigation and I can't discuss it."

Tillman wouldn't say whether Ryff was behind the complaint, but he wouldn't say he wasn't, either.

Lovely, meanwhile, has received several emails in regards to the cancellation of Richardson's blog. Below is one of those emails written by a retired cop.

Mr. Lovely,

I am a retired Phoenix Police Officer.  I know Bill Richardson personally and enjoy reading his blog.  I would appreciate an explanation why it has been shut down.  It is my understanding that he received some complaints from the NAACP and Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff.  Bill frequently pushes for needed changes in Tempe and it's Police Department policies.  It's no surprise that Tom Ryff would support the shutting down of his blog.

I am sure I am not alone in asking for some justification for the shutting down of the blog.  I look forward to your response.

Lovely responded with the following:

We did receive a complaint regarding Mr. Richardson's blog and our investigation found no wrong-doing on his part. Unfortunately, he then sent a letter that we felt was an act of intimidation. We have a strict policy that investigates any complaints against the paper without prejudice so that we insure we're not leveraging our position in an unfair way. The public must be able to voice concerns without fear of retribution.

Randy Lovely

Richardson got word of Lovely's response and insists he never wrote any "intimidating" letter and isn't sure to what Lovely is even referring.

Richardson contacted Lovely to get some clarification -- accusing someone of intimidating someone is a fairly big deal. He was told he and Lovely could discuss the matter next week -- when Lovely's back from his vacation.

Richardson, who seems to be interested in nothing more than getting to the bottom of things, feels he was silenced by a police chief he believes is trying to keep him from digging into the inner-workings of the department. To apparently use a 77-year-old rape victim and charges of racism as tools to silence him are what Richardson finds most appalling.

"Cobbs only does what Ryff tells him to do. I spent my entire career in uniform working in poor and mostly black and hispanic areas. I did it by choice and if I may say so, I was trusted and respected immensely by the minority community," Richardson says. "You don't have people make you quilts, bake you sweet potato pies, cook you bar-b-que and invite you to family parties if you're a racist.  And you especially don't have a black man rescue you from an attack by a dangerous ex-con if the people don't care about you."

Who knows if there was any conspiracy to oust a probing journalist but one thing seems clear: something stinks in the Tempe Police Department.
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19 comments
Esther Christensen
Esther Christensen

I just tuned into these comments about some big mess that seemed really quite bizzare indeed and I can attest to the fact that I've personnaly dealt with the Tempe Police for now seven plus years and have not seen them call all kinds of outside agencies on anything I've given them to look into, so to hear that they would have put that much effort into "ONE RAPE" is rather fairytail like to me...

They have been given a whole load of info on a prostitution ring I became informed about (in 2003) through the statments of one of its five victims and they have refused all along to get involved. To keep denying the problem is there has been their continued response in this case. So I've got an issue believing they would go all out for one woman when they won't do that for five children...

My normal inner questionning in their case is: are they involved in the trafficing of the drugs that are used on these victims as in "in bed with the balck market" profitting from a revenue brought in through these rings in the way of porn resulting from the encounters between the perps and the victims?! Not a pretty question to sleep on at night when it involves your own given back to one of the ring members... (during a divorce) What Mormons get away with... It's increddible! (14 agencies in the state part of that cover-up..!)

Eight years of this crass in the making for a Mom who now lives out of a car as a disabled female due to all the injustices through the courts of Mesa... If indeed the hispanics are poorly treated in our days in AZ; let them at least be glad they are usually of the Catholic Faith and the discovery of crimes in their midst has never caused a woman to be nearly killed for her spilling the beans on her knowledge... Or has there been such a thing in history... I'm not from here after all but a legal foreigner so I still have more history to learn! Although I see my own survival here out west as some of the history to cover for those who don't know as much on the crassy system we deal with as women in a Divorce involving incest/pedophilia/drugs and Mormonsim etc It's not a land of Justice for all but a land with cover ups for the wicked!!! (with rich groups of some who are like them to protect their evil deeds!!...)

Additionally I'm glad for my reading today on the character of Reverend Tillman (with the NAACP) ; that's been very enlighteneing in the fact that he chose to hear me out on my case; could that be so as to cover some objective in a personnal agenda?... A new question on my mind... Time will tell... Hope he's in this for the right reasons: protecting the rigths of children to be treated well in all places especially church halls and protecting the rights of good moms who were once stupid and brainwashed in chovenistics' groups with men for leaders (but with velvet gloves on...) and of course protecting the rights of freedom of speech in any setting for these wonderful humans that us women are! Yes even as a foreigner and disabled!!...

Ms Esther Christensen

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

I've been a member of the NAACP for over 25 years. I'm ashamed to hear that the organization I contribute money to and volunteer for is engaging in such schmarmy political shennigans. Reverend Tillman - what do you have to say for yourself?

Eleanor
Eleanor

Thank you for writing this story about Mr. Richardson. I think it is very important to let the public know how much Tom Ryff, Tempe Police Chief wants to get people to stop talking about him.

He has worked hard to stop other people including myself. He thinks that he has all the power of the police department at his hands to go after people who speak out against him. The truth of the matter is, he pretty much does. The City Manager refuses to hold him accountable for any of the things he has done to the citizens who have spoken out against him.

He has used his position to go into people's business's and take their computers because he thinks that people like me and Bill are behind the www.tempepolicecloset.com website.

I have received emails that have come from people claiming to be other people because I have spoken out against Ryff. So I don't think it would be too far off that Ryff or Cobbs wrote the letter or email themself. I don't think it would be too far off to say that these two would go to great lengths to quiet people like me and Bill and others.

I am confident that Mr. Richarson will find another outlet to express himself. He will continue to speak out against the bad and waste going on in the Tempe Police Department. Mr. Richardson speaks very highly of most of the officers of the TPD. His criticism is mainly of the way things are run. The Chief is 100% responsible for how things are run in the TPD......good or bad.

Ryff and Cobbs and pretty much the entire Tempe City leadership would love to silence all negative. The problem with that is that it only maintains the status quo and nothing gets changed for the better.

When Charlie Meyer, Hugh Hallman, Andrew Ching, Mark Mitchell, Shana Ellis, Robin Arrendondo-Savage, Corey Woods, Joel Navarro and Onnie Shekerjen all finally understand that the biggest bad guys in Tempe are the Police Chief and his personal assistant (that the tax payers pay the wages of) only then will things change.

Things need to change for the better in Tempe soon. We don't need to be known as the 48th most dangerous city in the US. Or the City in the East Valley with the highest violent crime, hate crime and murder rates.

These are some of the things that Mr. Richardson was bringing to the attention of the public before Mr. Lovely took it upon himself to shut him down. I doubt that Mr. Richardson threatened Mr. Lovely. If Mr. Lovely has proof of that he should show Mr. Richardson. My guess is, either he doesn't have the proof or he is beginning to realize that he got sucked into the black hole of Ryff and Cobbs.

Lots of people have stepped into the path of things meant for Ryff. I want to know why. What is he offering up for these favors? Who else is being put at risk (besides all of the citizens of Tempe) because Ryff and Cobbs "seek revenge" on those who speak out against Ryff? When is Charlie Meyer going to do something about it?

Cozland
Cozland

I live in Peoria and can smell the stink from Tempe PD from here.

DaVinci911
DaVinci911

Intimidation? Are we talking about Arpaio or Richardson....Mr. Lovely I know Bill Richardson and he is no Joe Arpaio...DaVinci911

Bill Richardson
Bill Richardson

Who is telling the truth? The Tempe Police Department or the Arizona Republic?

This information came from heatcity.com

Tempe police spokesman also denied that the agency had anything to do with the Republic’s decision, saying no one there had even voiced concerns about Richardson’s blog.“To answer your question, no,” Sgt. Steve Carbajal said. “Nobody from the department, including the chief, has made a complaint to the Republic.”

This information came from the Arizona Republic.

We did receive a complaint regarding Mr. Richardson's blog and our investigation found no wrong-doing on his part. Unfortunately, he then sent a letter that we felt was an act of intimidation. We have a strict policy that investigates any complaints against the paper without prejudice so that we insure we're not leveraging our position in an unfair way. The public must be able to voice concerns without fear of retribution.

Randy Lovely

I was told by the paper they received a complaint from Tempe Chief Tom Ryff and his assistant Charles Cobbs.

Below is the email I sent to Tempe officials after I was told the NAACP sent two letters to the Arizona Republic. A Tempe police employee made this complaint. The NAACP has refused to release the complaint, the two letters it wrote or its secret investigation of me.

August 13, 2010

Chief Ryff and Mr. Cobbs:

Did either of you have anything to do with the NAACP writing multiple letters to the newspapers I write for complaining about my purported involvement in the operating the tempepolicecloset.com website along with concerns about my having a racial bias?

If so, please tell me what you based your representations about me on?

Also, if you were involved, did any of your efforts take place on city time and involve city equipment or any other city personnel besides the two of you?

I look forward to an immediate and honest response.

volcanoregano
volcanoregano

Several years ago, when I was an administrator at Arizona State University, I worked with a group of criminal justice professors that had received a large federal grant to study how communities on the West side of Phoenix had improved their crime-fighting by sharing data. They showed that data-sharing was a relatively inexpensive way for police departments in metropolitan regions like Phoenix to improve their effectiveness. The logical extension of the coordinated work on the West side (and the East Valley Fusion Center, set up by Mesa's then-Chief of Police George Gascon) would be to have a statewide computer-based system that would allow all police departments and relevant state and federal agencies to exchange information instantaneously, in order to catch criminals who tended to cross jurisdictional lines to escape capture. I became a supporter of such a program, which was being promoted by various public safety groups throughout the state.

It was around this time that I became aware of Bill Richardson, through reading his columns in the East Valley Tribune. Richardson, as has been described by many of the commentators below, is an experienced ex-cop and ex-Marine with little patience for police that he feels do not work hard enough to protect the public. Based on his years on the job, Richardson quickly recognized the value of data-sharing systems. He and I began strategizing together, along with Gascon and many others (including Tempe's Chief Ryff) attempting to advance the goal of a state-wide crime database. I found Richardson to be a relentless and dedicated advocate and brain-stormer. After about five years of concerted work by Richardson and others, these efforts are finally starting to bear fruit.

During this period, I've gotten to know Bill pretty well. He is a passionate defender of victims' rights.He has blue-collar sensibilities and remains close friends with all sorts of people in the crime-fighting business, from beat cops to chiefs to politicians. Like Gascon (who is now Police Chief in San Francisco), Richardson has criticized Sheriff Arpaio and his associates, complaining not so much about their politics, but about their ineffectiveness at fighting crime.

The charges that have been lobbed at Bill are crude attempts at muzzling, and completely out of character with the person I know. The Republic should reinstate the blog in order to keep the public informed about crime issues. As Bill has pointed out on numerous occasions, the criminals are getting more and more sophisticated in the weapons they use to break the law. The defenders of our safety need all the tools they can get to fight back, and they need the public to understand what's at stake. Silencing Bill Richardson really serves nobody's interests but those of organized crime.

Pinal Charlie
Pinal Charlie

PinalcharlieBill Richardson and worked together in the early years, lately after reading his posts-etc., figured sooner or later one of the departments would feel the pain, sneak in the backdoor with phony verbage as with the NAACP miss-fire? Bill has been on target with the departments in his colum and posts for many years...if the department is not performing well, the Chief is a jerk or whatever, take the heat and leave the comments to someone that is paying attention and is critical when the issues warrants a public spanking.I applaud Bill for his talent and straight shooting attitude, Ryff and Cobb needs to get over the attitude/hurt feelings- thank God for people as Bill that has the tenacity to write about correcting wrongs and drawing attention to the short-comings of the untouchables.

Richard Moore
Richard Moore

Bill Richardson is anything but a racist, and anyone who knows him, also knows that anyone who would accuse Richardson of being racist simply has no personal knowlege of Richardson.

A commenter, identified only as Dave, has blasted Richardson for Cop bashing. Dave couldn't be farther from the truth. By the way Dave, Richardsons title of Master Police Officer is not a made up title, it is one that is hard earned. That title goes to those officers who, (by choice), decided to forego the career path that leads to promotion up through the ranks, and decided to stay a 'street cop' for his entire career, applying his abilities directly on his beat, and keeping his extensive knowlege and expertise in constant touch with the people that he served. This was a chosen career path which honored those rare officers who decided to apply their extensive knowlege of police work where it is most needed, --- on the beat.

The only cops that Richardson ever bashed, were those who either chose not to work with other cops, or who were so set in promoting their own agenda that they wasted time and resourses in order to further their own ambitions. Those types Richardson did seek out, and he railed on them for wasting time and resourses, when they refused to work with other agencies in order to promote the better good.

I have personally known Bill RIchardson for over 40 years. I worked with him for nearly 20 of those years. In all that time, the only bias that I saw him display was against those who chose to take unfair advantage of those who could not protect themselves, or against those, who squandered money and resourses for their own purposes, and diverted it from helping those for whom it was intended.

There is a word that is used to describe men like Bill Richardson. That word is integrity.

Richard Moore, Mesa

DaVinci911
DaVinci911

Travesty of media justice...Its not a Lovely day if the Arizona Republic cannot handle the truthful reporting of Bill Richardson. When Bill R. was in law enforcement, Arizona was a much safer state, due to the fact that Bill et al. targetted major organized criminals...he did not focus on broken tailights or windshields, unless the driver was carrying multi-pounds of illicit drugs. When you refer to pressure from NAACP, I hope you are not referring to Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters, Bernice Johnson from Dallas or the Congressman with multi-thousands stored in the freezer, or a guy named Jones who admitted being a Communist, with an appt. from Obama...

Briner55225
Briner55225

As a former Mayor-Pro-Tem from a California city, I would work for the replacement of the Police Chief in Tempe and the rest of his ilk. The city of Tempe needs to get it's act together and join the modern world. Bill Richardson has been telling it like it is. The city of Tempe is acting like it is because they know what Bill has exposed is, infact, true.

Coper1658
Coper1658

The ousting of retired Mesa police detective and Arizona Republic investigative reporter/Blogger from the Arizona Republic leaves the paper with just one and one half investigative reporters. Unfortunately with Don Bolles murdered and then the Arizona Republic driving Al Sitter into early retirement and the paper and east valley theocratic building contractors running off Jon Talton the paper is left with Bill Goodykoontz as one of the few good journalists on staff. Of course Richard Nilsen is good but he only shows up every other month. The city of Tempe and the Tempe Police department have been on a downslide since the city decided to upgrade to high end markets that most folks in Tempe and especially students could not afford to cater too. The current police chief is a former shiny misdemeanor motorcycle cop. He is a career bureaucrat with little history of success as a credible felony investigator. Tempe City Hall and upper police management has become more politically goal oriented towards keeping their positions than effective in solving problems.Regarding Oscar Tillman, his credibility is in question as how effective he is too the community he purports to represent and he is just a shadow of a real leader compared to men like former city councilman Calvin Goode and business leader Lincoln Ragsdale, whose Sky Room Jazz club provided me with great music in the 50’s and 60’s.Lovely and administrators at the Arizona Republic are mere mortals compared to the gods that once ruled the Arizona Republic. Consequently don’t expect them to stand tall for the world of Atlas has given way to a world where entertainment GoodyKontz speak is the most important thing on the American horizon.“Shiny” administrators and politicians is not a new phenomena just a fact of American life. If it looks good, it must be good. In 1984, police chief Ruben Ortega commented negatively about the shiny appearance of society. He said, in today’s world, “An ounce of an appearance is worth a pound of performance.” Not much has changed.It’s a sad world where the only real investigative newspaper in Phoenix is the T/A New Times. But to their credit they have hung in there when lesser men have folded to the tide of inbred moronic thinking. Hello Orwell.Cal Lash - Retired Phoenix Police Officer /Detective & Supervisor in Uniform, Organized Crime, Narcotics, Internal affairs, Robbery, Communications, Walking Beats and Administrative assistant to Police Chiefs Lawrence Wetzel and Ruben Ortega.

Loosecannonsbluesband
Loosecannonsbluesband

Hey Cal, don't despair about the Sky Room - Bobby C's opened up in the same location and is providing great jazz weekly still.

loosecannonsbluesband@yahoo.com

Dadwags981
Dadwags981

I am a retired police officer from Illinois. I met Bill Richardson in 1982 when my son had gone to Airzona to live with his mother and her new husband. He was 14 at the time and I kept in contact with him by phone several times a week. Suddently, when I called I would be told that he wasn't home. This went on for two weeks before his mother finally told me that she had not seen or heard from him in two weeks. Knowing this was not like him I told her to make a police report. She made the report and was told that he probably ran away. I contacted the Mesa police department and was told that there was nothing they could do because this was common in Arizona. Being a police officer I was able to conduct some further investigation and determined that he had met a friend at the local mall. The friend was an adult. Through contacts at Chicago PD, I was connected to an ex-FBI agent who was living in the Phoenix area and Master Sergeant Bill Richardson of the Mesa Police Department. After explaining the circumstances an investigation was opened and Sergeant Richardson was able to to determine the identify of the friend and the fact that he was a known child predator with prior convictions. As a result of the outstanding work of Sergeant Richardson, my son was located in California. The friend, who became aware that Sergeant Richardson was looking for him, had left my son. My son was flown back to Chicago. It was determined that he had been the victim of sexual assaults by the friend as well as used to commit criminal acts to support the friend. The FBI in Chicago became involved and conducted an interview. They worked with Sergeant Richardson and the friend was located in California where he was involved with other young boys. Warrants were issued and the friend was arrested. The friend was sentenced to prison in Arizona for child molesting and also in California.

If it had not been for Sergeant Richardson this case may not have been solved and my son's well being would be in serious question. When the rest of the police in the Phoenix area that I contacted all said there was nothing they could do, Sergeant Richardson using his excellent investigative skills and street smarts stood up and ran with the case.

I have been reading Sergeant Richardson's editorials and blogs for a long time and as a retired police officer believe that what he rights is something that not only keeps the community informed but keeps those in command of police agencies in a position where they know they are not kings but are servants of the public and the public can read the articles written by Sergeant Richardson to keep them appraised of what is going on.

Throughout the years that I have had the opportunity and pleasure of knowing Sergeant Richardson I have never heard any racist remarks and to me he was a dedicated police officer who is not afraid to get involved and keep the community up to date on what is happening.

The Arizona Republic made a choice, which they had the right to do. I question however, if the same choice would have been made if it was a full time journalist andI believe they should reconsider their actions and not let others decide how the first amendment should be interpreted. Their decision only hurts the community, who, after reading Sergeant Richardson's editorials and blogs can interpret them as they decide.

KXB
KXB

Bill Richardson is one reason I read the Republic, & his departure is one more reason not to read it. Do its editors really imagine the state will be best served by having fewer informed writers on this already-underreported beat? Tom Ryff isn't the only uniformed politician in the area who'd prefer that his actions be free from public scrutiny, & the Republic seems willing to go along. What message are the editors sending to their remaining reporters about the paper's willingness to stand behind them?

I hope Richardson will find another venue.

Dave
Dave

What stinks is Richardson's attempt to be a reporter. Bill Richardson talks out of both ends. He bashes cops on a regular basis. There is no fowl play here - Richardson is a grouchy old man who does not check his facts.

What goes around comes around, Bill. BTW, giving yourself made-up titles like "master" officer or reporter doesn't shun you from public backlash.

Adam
Adam

You have no idea what you are talking about. The one talking out of both ends is you my friend! Furthermore, the tiltle "Master Police Officer" did exist at the Mesa Police Department when Richardson was there... Do your homework before you make stupid comments...

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