Tempe Police Chief, Mayor, 2 Cops Named In Racial Profiling Case

By | June 3, 2009

by Brian A. Wilkins

Tempe Police Chief Tom Ryff, Mayor Hugh Hallman, Officer Tyler Watkins, and Sergeant Jon Waide were served summonses last week after Dr. Araya Wolde-Giorgis filed a complaint in Maricopa County Superior Court.

Wolde-Giorgis, an Ethiopian American, alleges that Officer Watkins pulled him over on February 17, 2008, solely because of his race. Watkins also threatened Wolde-Giorgis by continually placing his hand on his pistol, the complaint alleges. Wolde-Giorgis was told he was being issued a “left turn violation” citation, but discovered a second citation, “turn signal violation,” once he got home and obtained his reading glasses. Wolde-Giorgis sent letters to Mayor Hugh Hallman and police chief Tom Ryff to make them aware of Watkins behavior. The letters were ignored and never answered, according to Wolde-Giorgis. He also alleges that Watkins “lied under oath” during the court proceedings “to defame and besmirch” the Plaintiff.

The complaint asks for compensatory and punitive damages. The City of Tempe has 20 days to respond to the summons.

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