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Phoenix approves $232,000 contract for interim police chief

The Phoenix City Council approved a one-year contract for an interim police chief to begin Sept. 12.

Michael Sullivan will replace retiring Chief Jeri Williams. In Baltimore, Sullivan led police reform efforts following a federal investigation and he will  lead Phoenix through an open Department of Justice investigation into use of force, retaliation and discriminatory policing.

City Manager Jeff Barton hired Sullivan with no public input but promised council members a different experience for a permanent chief.

“It will be a very robust process that includes lots of community engagement as well as engagement with other stakeholders, including the unions,” he said during Wednesday's council meeting.

In addition to his $232,000 annual salary, Sullivan will receive a 9% pension contribution, $120 monthly cellphone allowance and moving expenses up to $5,000. The interim position is expected to last 12-24 months. 

When Barton announced plans to hire an interim chief, he initially said the interim chief would not be able to apply for the permanent position.

“We then got several questions asked of us that if this individual does a really great job why would we shoot ourselves in the foot and not allow them to compete in the process, so yes, he would be able to if he chose to do that,” Barton said. “We will not anoint this person chief, we will not tap them chief, they would have to go through the same process as everyone else."

Williams will stay on to assist the translation. In May, she notified the city of her retirement after 33 years in law enforcement.

Sullivan  worked with the Louisville Metro Police Department for more than 20 years and was appointed second in command in 2015. He joined the Baltimore Police Department in 2019 where he led reform efforts and brought the department into initial compliance with mandates of its final consent decree, which is a court enforceable agreement to resolve findings by the Department of Justice in 2017. Sullivan’s full biography is here.

As a senior field correspondent, Christina Estes focuses on stories that impact our economy, your wallet and public policy.