Bad to Worse

08.13.15 11:30 AM ET

Ferguson’s Police Chief Was Suspended Three Times From His Previous Job

Andre Anderson, who is currently heading Ferguson's police department, was served with an order of protection after he allegedly hit a woman.

Andre Anderson, the interim police chief in Ferguson, Missouri, has some troubling blemishes on his record, including an order of protection filed against him and three suspensions from his job with the Glendale, Arizona, police department, Vocativ has learned.

Anderson, who was appointed to the position in July, is effectively on loan to Ferguson for six months from the Glendale Police Department, from which he is on vacation and then unpaid leave. But Anderson’s history in Glendale has some in Arizona’s law enforcement community questioning how he’s still a cop at all, let alone the person chosen to implement reforms in one of the most high-profile, scandal-plagued, and media-scrutinized law enforcement agencies in the country. In his 24 years with the Glendale police, Anderson was once accused of falsifying official documents and was suspended three times in less than 12 months, according to his personnel file, which Vocativ obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request.

And in the summer of 1996, a judge granted an order of protection against Anderson to a woman who claimed that “On 29 July 1996, Andre C. Anderson struck me in the face and it caused severe headaches, swelling, and broken blood vessels around my lower eye.” It does not appear that criminal charges were filed in the case, and court records available online show that the order of protection was quashed about six weeks after it was granted.

Asked for comment on the order of protection, a spokesperson for the Ferguson police told Vocativ by email, “The allegations regarding Chief Anderson allegedly striking a woman are more than 15 years old, were unfounded… and thus never led to criminal charges being filed.”

Anderson first began working as a police officer in 1989, when he joined the Phoenix Police Department. He stayed with that department for nine months, according to his application to the Glendale Police Department. It’s unclear why Anderson left—he gave no reason on the application but noted that he could provide one during an interview. Contacted by Vocativ, the Phoenix Police Department was unable to immediately locate Anderson’s personnel file.

After he parted ways with the Phoenix police, Anderson worked at an office furniture store briefly before returning to the Arizona Department of Corrections, where he had worked for a time before joining the Phoenix force, as a corrections officer. He left that job after six months to become a police officer again, this time with the Tolleson Police Department, a much smaller agency than the Phoenix department in a town just west of the city. He worked in Tolleson for about seven months before applying for the job in Glendale, a larger city than Tolleson that is, for all intents and purposes, a suburb of Phoenix.

Bill Richardson is a retired former detective who spent decades working in Arizona law enforcement. He reviewed Anderson’s personnel file at Vocativ’s request and says his career trajectory was unusual.

“It would be like leaving The New York Times to go cover the sanitation department for the Podunk Post,” Richardson said of Anderson’s departure from the Phoenix police. “And when he left he went and worked at a furniture store? That doesn’t happen.”

The majority of Anderson’s performance reviews are glowing endorsements of his work in Glendale. That includes largely positive reviews in his early years on the force; in 1994 he was nominated for and received a Police Officer of the Year award.

But Anderson’s file also shows that he was suspended without pay for two days in December 1996, then suspended without pay for eight days in July and August 1997, and then suspended without pay for two days in September 1997. The reasons for the suspensions in 1997 do not appear to be discussed in the file, which only contains brief references to what brought about the 1996 suspension. When asked for any and all of Anderson’s disciplinary records, Glendale provided Vocativ with a report that was not included in Anderson’s personnel file about a minor traffic accident in which he was involved in 2013 and then pointed to its human resources policies, which state that records regarding disciplinary actions can be removed from an employee’s personnel file after five years.

What is included in the file are some details about Anderson’s time on a Drug Enforcement Administration task force while working with the Glendale police. Anderson experienced “significant problems” while assigned to that task force, according to a personnel review by a sergeant that is in the file. An internal affairs investigation into Anderson’s time with the task force ended in the two-day suspension in 1996.

“Andre during this first rating period it was noted by your supervisors at D.E.A. that you were experiencing significant problems while assigned to the task force,” Sergeant David Donald wrote in a review of Anderson dated December 31, 1996. “These problems led to the initiation of an internal investigation and your transfer back to the department. From the investigation you received a memo of correction and a two day suspension for conducting personal business on city time and falsifying official documents.” Donald did note, however, that “even with the problems you experienced you did an excellent job in your undercover activities.”

As part of this review, Donald also noted that Anderson was “involved in a non-injury accident involving city equipment” that was “due to inattention on [Anderson’s] part during a surveillance of a subject.” Donald wrote, “This stress was brought on by your own actions due to the lengthy internal investigation and led to you being assigned to the office for your safety as well as your peers.” He concluded, “This has not always been a problem and in the patrol environment I would expect to see improved future ratings in this area.” (According to the personnel file, Anderson was transferred from investigations to patrol in early 1997.) Contacted by Vocativ, Donald declined to comment.

A spokesperson for the Ferguson police told Vocativ by email, “The allegation about falsifying documents actually involves a situation where Chief Anderson provided information on a mileage report in error, not out of an intentional, malicious action. The information regarding the DEA Task Force is a personnel issue and should remain so.

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“It should be noted that Chief Anderson has excelled in his law enforcement career with countless recommendations,” the spokesperson for the Ferguson police continued. “He has also been promoted numerous times since each of the items you have questioned about his personnel file.”

Dave Lind is a former assistant chief of police in both Chandler and Tempe, Arizona. From a managerial standpoint, Lind said, an officer who had been suspended three times in such a short period “would raise eyebrows.”

“People make mistakes. Bottom line,” he said. “But three suspensions in a year is a problem… at that point, as an officer, you have to ask yourself if this work just isn’t for you—assuming a supervisor doesn’t make that decision for you.”

Ferguson’s interim city manager, Ed Beasley, also comes from Glendale, where he was the city manager from 2002 to 2012. According to Anderson’s personnel file, from October 2003 to April 2004, while he was still a police sergeant, he also served as a “management intern” with the city of Glendale with responsibilities that Anderson described as including “working directly with City Manager and council members to research and develop information necessary to prepare and serve as host city for the Super Bowl.” Anderson listed Beasley as his direct supervisor during that time.

Beasley has a less-than-glamorous history in Glendale that allegedly includes an “extreme DUI” and allegations of cronyism and poor management. Beasley retired one year before an external audit of Glendale’s city government concluded that he and his employees had misled the City Council about the costs of an early-retirement program. The audit also revealed that Beasley had agreed to pay a human resources employee $140,000 a year to telecommute from Mississippi.

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