Arizona State University has named acting police chief Michael Thompson to take over a department that has struggled with staffing, morale and questions over use of force against a university professor.
Thompson, 47, has been leading the department since July.
In June, the university announced then-chief John Pickens was stepping aside to take on a new role as executive director of University Security Initiatives after 14 years at the helm.
Thompson, a native Arizonan, has been with the department since 2008 and most recently was an assistant chief. Before that, he worked for the Mesa Police Department for 20 years.
“Overall, the department does a good job keeping the community safe,” he said in an interview Friday with The Arizona Republic.
His goals include increased engagement with the community and making sure the department is meeting people’s needs, he said.
The department was thrust into the spotlight this summer after a video went viral of an ASU police officer arresting a university professor. The confrontation prompted debate over whether the officer used excessive force and whether English professor Ersula Ore was targeted because she is Black. An investigation into the incident is ongoing.
The police department also has had difficult staffing all its patrol shifts. In September, a story in The Republic detailed how the department struggled to schedule a full complement of patrol officers, failing to meet its own requirements a majority of the days during the spring semester.
As a result, supervisors had to either pay overtime, reassign someone from another job or leave positions on a shift vacant. The department couldn’t say how often it left a post empty on any given patrol shift.
ASU has hired more police officers this year to bolster department resources.
The department had 74 full-time sworn officers on June 30. Thompson said on Friday the number of officers is 87, which includes five who are in police academy training.
“We’re doing pretty good,” he said.
An anonymous blog, called the Integrity Report, which details the inner-workings of the ASU Police Department, was pushing for ASU to bring in an outsider for the position.
The university conducted a national search, but Morgan Olsen, ASU’s executive Vice President and chief financial officer, said in a statement that Thompson has proven his leadership skills through a range of past jobs and more recently as acting chief.
“We are confident he will build on his career experience and personal attributes to be an exceptional leader,” Olsen said.
Thompson said he brings advantages having already worked at ASU. He knows the university and the surrounding community.
“There’s a lot of things I can hit the ground on running,” he said.
In a move that surprised no one, ASU announced today it was promoting interim chief Michael Thompson to the top cop spot at the university. Thompson’s promotion has sent a clear message to ASUPD’s employees that the department will continue to press on with its head in the sand, unable and unwilling to acknowledge any problems such as staffing, morale, and lack of adequate training.
Thompson stated his goals for ASUPD included “engaging with the community” and “meeting [other] peoples’ needs”, despite the fact that the department is in the midst of a meltdown and is barely able to function. Noticeably absent from his list of goals are ideas that pertain to his own employees, such as improving departmental morale and increasing employee retention. Thompson’s desire to put his own agenda ahead of the department’s needs sound reminiscent of the Pickens-era attitude of shameless self promotion.
Yes, more bodies have come through the door, but for how long? In the Chief’s Advisory Board meeting minutes from December 2013, Pickens was bragging about having 5 more police officer recruits; of those 5 recruits, only half are left at the department. Including your police recruits amongst the total number of sworn officers is not only deceiving to the public, it is just a bold-faced lie to designed to inflate the number of employees. Clearly, Thompson has yet to learn from the mistakes his predecessor made and shouldn’t be counting his chickens before they hatch, so to speak.
The only advantage Thompson had over the other candidates is that he knew how to appease ASU’s administrators (Olsen, Crow) by playing politics and kissing ass. He has no more insight into the university and the surrounding community than the external applicants did. If Thompson did truly understand the needs of the ASU community, he would be actively working to solve issues that concern ASU’s students, faculty–such as having a safe, secure campus. Instead, Thompson has done little more than stand by while Tempe PD proactively reaches out to local residents.
Looking busy while someone else actually does the hard work seems to be the mantra that Thompson lives by nowadays….that seemed to work out fairly well for John Pickens, too.
Mike Thompson an exceptional leader? What the f*ck does Morgan Olsen know about leadership?
The selection of Thompson as chief of police sends a chilling message to ASU PD employees that the university’s leadership is content with the current dysfunction within the ASU PD and its malevolent leadership.
On Thompson’s selection to chief of police by top-level ASU administrators: Disappointed? Yes! Surprised? No!
If Morgan Olsen knew anything about leadership Pickens would have got the boot a long time ago. He doesn’t know shit about it and public safety for the ASU community suffers for it.
Selection process?!? Really? It must of been the same selection process former Chief Pickens went through to be picked for a job they made up while sitting indisposed on the think tank. A nice ruse that fooled nobody, just like this one. Based on what we’ve seen during the interim, prepare to be unimpressed as our “Now Hiring” sign goes on it’s 15th year of uninterrupted service. Now why is that?
Why is that? It’s because the people making decisions for the police department above the chief, evaluating his work, knew nothing about running a police department.
Morgan Olsen knows very little about public safety, his decision making about what to do about the ongoing ASUPD workplace situation shows how out of touch he is. This is what happens when a flaming liberal from a college runs a police department with no factual concept of public safety.
It’s an old story. Look at business models. If a business is continuing to lose money over and over how long does it stay in business? If a company doesn’t perform for it’s share holders what happens to the price of it’s stock? What business has exceptions to the laws of a free market? The business of government.
The ASUPD can fail perpetually until the people making government possible demand that it gets fixed. Perhaps the news can do a story on how many police related law suits were paid out by the university using public state money? I bet that would be a shocker to a budget conscious public who recently voted down lawmaker pay raises that would give state legislators a lower middle class wage.
I put more thought into where to eat lunch than went into this selection process. Is it any accident that two out of three so called runner ups were from New York were Crow hails from? Out of a nationwide search we end up with a Pickens appointee? I’ll believe the miracle when I see it.
Not surprised, Mike is a good politician and he’s only proven he can jump to the whims of Morgan Olsen the way he did for Pickens.
As you can see throughout his emails there’s nothing about improving the workplace of ASUPD because he refuses to see any issues within the department.
Any new officer that thinks they have a future here can look at this as the fact that the university is happy with the Pickens leadership model of zero, they can see what their counterparts have achieved at other agencies, that anyone with the ability to leave does so, and the list goes on.
What else goes on? The endless cycle and expenditures of hiring, training, and not retaining due to the lackluster, corrupt, self-promoting sloths we have polluting the leadership circle all the way through our chain of command to include the Crow’s nest.
Disappointed, but not surprised. So far he fits the university management model of doing the doing the same thing over again and expecting different results.
I’m sure a behind the scenes view of the so-called selection process would be as amusing as the ones have been at the PD, especially under Pickens. The university wants a spineless YES man who is willing to put the troops last the way Pickens did and it’s clear they got their man.
Since Thompson took over what has he done for ASUPD? We’re waiting to see the miracle. Pickens was an abysmal leader, he surrounded himself by leadership scum of his own making, it’s not hard to rise above this. If he does rise above it I’ll say good things about his accomplishments here and at work. Fair is fair.
Mike, Go against the expectations, deal with the problem people, replace the commanders with people that know what they’re doing, and undo all the things that the former regime did to hold this department back. It’s the right thing to do if you are serious about getting this department where it needs to be.
If you want to hear positive things you have the power to do them. Anything less will snowball on you as the problem the way it did with Pickens. It’s hard for the man in charge to come up with excuses.
I hope he does go against the expectations. He will not get an ounce of respect unless he does so and he needs the respect and support to grow this agency. He has a long way to go.
Thompson is now hand in hand with all the people in command responsible for damaging the ASU Police Department. All the talk of the department’s legitimacy continues to ignore the issue of it’s legitimacy in the eyes of it’s own employees and none of us can believe this audacity.
Turning the cheek to survive the Pickens regime is one thing. We get that, the man was a control freak with no more knowledge about leading people than a impetuous child, you wanted to keep your job because you were surrounded by the rabid dogs in his command. The idea of keeping them around to rebuild this department is a sad joke.
Doing so will never get Thompson an ounce of respect. How could it? The law enforcement community is meant to be one of truth, justice, ethics, integrity and the current command of ASUPD doesn’t belong there in this hall of honor.
100% true, even the grocery store can separate the tea bags from the D bags.
From what we have seen, Thompson is another yes man incapable of seeing the issues if the department and doing something about them. The issues take a will, intelligence, and determination he is lacking. Just like do nothing lazy John Pickens, his short sighted view lacks substance.
The latest push for public propaganda promoting the police department and hiring more people is not the answer and it will backfire. Ignoring the issues always backfires.
It’s amazing how Mike Thompson gets the chief position and all of a sudden Sergeant Pam Osborne’s injury disappears overnight and she’s back to duty. Sounds like she’s being less than truthful, maybe an investigation needs to be done on that?
I wonder what the doctor’s “You’re full of shit.” face looked like when she was pushing for a medical retirement? I suppose it’s back to sitting at a desk in a cubicle and paper fucking employees about a job she knows so little about!
So true brother, so true. Thanks for the insightful post.
I like the blog because it has brought to light the leadership pitfalls within ASUPD and the media, as well as regular concerned citizens, have taken notice. The part that bothers me is the personal attacks on specific employees which comes across more as a school yard name calling thing and less of an avenue to point out leadership failures.
I neither support nor am against Sgt. Osborne and others that have been called out but in my view these attacks cheapen the message of the blog.
The PD Chief and Command have yet to take a stand for the officers and offer up support. Instead, as has been pointed out over and over, they are Yes Men bowing to the University Admin and that is sad.
If Thompson wants to win the trust and respect of his troops, he needs to cowboy up and tell the professional educators to go educate and let the professional law enforcers do their jobs like real cops.
The focus here should be more about “legitimizing” the PD and less about personal vendettas and name calling.
just my .02 worth…..
Wow…. If you don’t snake the pipes once in a while debris, known as shit, will collect in them causing problems for the whole house.
ImJohnDoe: you have to differentiate between the blog author and the comments here. It seems when specific people are mentioned in a blog post, it’s to illustrate a larger point (I know Sgt Osborne has been mentioned in a post and it was to illustrate how employees don’t receive punishment equally). Specific people are called out in comments by its been from posters, not from the blog writers.
Look at the track record, it speaks for itself. If I want someone to use their entire work day sitting at a computer on personal social media websites I know who to call. Carpel tunnel from work? Hardly. Pull the IT records and take a look.
ImJohnDoe, If you combine the lack of transparency with the concern people have raised that someone isn’t being held accountable, it builds and builds.
It’s time to start paying much more attention to the employees, like Pamela Osborne, who have made a career out of being hostile to other employees so nobody would focus on all the work they were neglecting to do.
She has spent quite a bit of time playing the FML, light duty, working from home, hanging out with her husband at work game. We could attract a lot of working talent with the 80+k she ties down trying to look busy.
Why are many of us not impressed with Morgan Olsen’s selection of Mike Thompson as chief of police? Same promotes same and the former chief was a model of what not to do. Unless we see something done different what reason does anyone have to be impressed and change their viewpoint on this? How logical would that be?
In order to understand this latest appointment let’s take a moment to look at the legacy John Pickens left behind. This was a legacy that was stellar, A OK, for the people running this university and figured out an understaffed, underfunded, poorly managed police department meant less statistics. When they falsified Clery and it looked even better, too good to be true. Someday the conflict of interest, inherit in the public safety leadership structure here at the university, will be exposed for what it is.
John Pickens left the department broken, dangerously understaffed for years, morale in the pits, a wrecked training program to the point where nobody worth a shit wanted to be a part of it, officers leaving as soon as they were off probation or as soon as they were sworn in, with increasing media attention to the mess created by 14 years of gross negligence and incompetence…
As a man in charge of the Arizona State University Police Department, a profession meant to represent people screened for the highest standards of moral character, Pickens lied, lied, lied. He lied about the state mandated raises, he lied to the potential employers of employees trying to escape this agency, he lied about going to his bosses about outer vest carriers, about improved equipment, about black and white cars, and he kept known liars in the command, and kept liars in the police academy despite ALEA wanting to fire them.
God only knows what else he lied about, but make no mistake, same promotes same, and this moral reprobate set the standards pathetically low for the “leadership” of this police department. This same leadership inherited the soiled office Pickens left behind.
Pickens openly talked about “owning” employees in the department because he promoted people who were not hirable by other police agencies due to background issues, people with little to no education that would make them ineligible to test for Sergeant at most police departments and yet they are commanders and above at the Arizona State University police department.
Naturally these Neanderthals of policing in a bygone era were very protective of their fellow failure models, feeling threatened by people more intelligent and competent in the field. Look at the record of how many people have been pushed out of this agency over the last 14 years.
Many veteran officers who could have built this agency left in disgust to be replaced by child-like rookies who knew more about living with their mom than they knew about the real world.
This is how “the clique” was formed, a family of socially inept and insecure adults being handpicked for leadership positions reliving their high school shortcomings in the workplace of a police department.
All the talk about the legitimacy of the ASU Police Department in the eyes of the public is a weak diversion to keep the focus off the fact that the legitimacy of the department is secure by the overwhelming majority of the public we serve. It’s secure despite political action groups based on race claiming one lone police contact is racially motivated when it has nothing to do with it. It was about how he was trained, who trained him, and who supervised him, they failed him.
The public’s opinion of the legitimacy of the ASU police department is secure until the public isn’t getting adequate police service because there’s nobody to answer their calls. Having no officers for the downtown campus, having one or two to cover Tempe at times, what if something happens? We have been so lucky for so long and guess what happens when you rely on luck alone?
It’s nothing new; officers here don’t respect our command or the clique, and won’t put up with their shit because they have options. Keep ignoring that legitimacy and see what happens. It’s happened for years, nothing new expect the policing responsibility of the university is too big and public now to ignore like old times.
You talk in our “training” about the city of Tempe Police Department not viewing our police department as legitimate? You think these issues and many others were kept secret? Everyone here has friends at other agencies; do you think that people don’t talk about their experiences good and bad? Word gets around quickly.
What’s the surest way of gaining legitimacy? Earning it by doing the right thing, not gimmicks, stunts, and cheap tricks. I would advise Chief Mike Thompson to look around the table and honestly ask himself which of his command does the right thing, has a reputation for doing so, and has the trust of the officers, employees who hold what’s left of this agency together.
Well put, but I fear your message is lost on deaf ears. I suspect too many milestones have been passed for this redemption to occur. Nevertheless the boat won’t float without it.
This will be the litmus test for more attempts to fix the department without regard to what the problems really are. It takes more than throwing bodies into the toxic mix they ignore to make a working police department.
If the university wanted change they would have brought in some new blood. The micromanagement of a police department continues by people who know police work from what experience? Running a university?
This is the truth the pd and university management tries hard to ignore and I don’t understand it. They are so reluctant to admit there’s a problem, fearful of the liability of admitting fault. By doing so they create more problems, liability, and leave people unprotected.
The jig is up for some current employees that have been afforded special treatment and privileges over the years.
The remnants of the old regime is slowly unraveling and we hope that Chief Thompson is preparing to eventually replace the entire Pickens-installed command staff.
The current mindset and malevolent methods of operation by many current commanders is detrimental to the morale, welfare and progress of ASU PD employees.
It is critical that Chief Thompson make this strategic and necessary move as soon as possible so that the ASU PD can move forward in a positive and holistic direction.
One of the hallmarks of a great leader in any organization is the ability to make bold and decisive changes for the collective benefit of the entire organization, not just a select few.
We hope that Chief Thompson has the foresight and wisdom to prepare the current command staff for major changes within the ASU PD, to include structural and personnel changes within the command.
If these much-needed changes do not occur within the ASU PD, we will continue to lose good quality employees and flounder more and more as a police department.
Chief Thompson, You are now empowered to make the many needed changes that many have been pleading and clamoring for. You are no longer hamstrung by John Pickens so do what is in the best interest for the ASU PD, all its employees and university.
Has anyone googled ASUPD in images lately?!?
It was quite interesting to see the montage of infamous images from the ASU PD that now grace Google images–the legacy of the former chief, John Pickens.
Chief Thompson, we are beseeching you to hold people accountable, restructure the PD and clean house.
With the passing of Veterans Day and all the university’s publicity that it supports its veterans, it was a sad reminder that we once had a former Marine who had completed and survived combat tours in Iraq but did not survive more than two-weeks in the ASUPD because of a hostile-type work environment.
When the story of the Marine was recently brought to the attention of the university’s leadership, they merely blew it off. Since the employee left in 2008, sources said that the university and PD leadership merely said not to focus on past events.
This is ironic because many tributes to our veterans are based on past events. Many events are heroic and worthy of recounting, even if it was during WWI, WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Why do we sometimes recount stories in general? Because we want an accounting of what happened, good or bad.
The story of our former war hero and how he was treated by some current members in the ASUPD is indeed a tragic and sad one.
Recommendations to the university’s leadership to reach out to the Marine and apologize for the treatment has not occurred from what we have been told.
What also is tragic is that some current members in the ASUPD that prompted a hardened Marine to exit so quickly, are still deeply entrenched and have thrived since the departure of our Marine.
Marine, on behalf of the men and women of the ASUPD, we would like to extend our deepest apologies for how you were treated and thank you for your service.
Marine, we hope that in the not too distant future, we can recount your heroism on the battlefield as well as your experience with the ASUPD publicly, so that your tragic experience is never again replicated on any ASUPD employee.
Again, on behalf of the men and women in the ASUPD, thank you for your service and God bless you and your family always.
Did anyone catch this interview that Chief Thompson did on KJZZ Radio?
Yet another example of failed leadership. Most of his answers were vague and generic. His remarks on the livesafe app were pathetic. He said students now have the ability to converse directly with dispatch regarding things that they see on campus. Then he gave two examples; someone smoking and a room mate compatibility question. Really?? Is this what the cops are there for?
Then, the inevitable question regarding the nutty professor, Ursula Ore,and race was raised. Whether Off. Ferrin handled the situation correctly or not is a debate for another day but one thing we all know for sure, including the Chief, is that it WAS NOT a race issue.
Here was the perfect opportunity for the Chief to demonstrate leadership and stand up for his troops and openly set the record straight, as should have happened this past summer, and tell the world that race was not a part of the arrest and race was only brought into the equation when the professor went to the media.
Thompson knows this to be true and yet, instead of doing so, he acquiesced to the incorrect info being given out by the interviewer and babbled on about the wonderful diversity training that he has recently mandated on the masses.
Let me just say that I found that training to be nothing more than further promoting racism under the guise of diversity. Taking offense to a suggestion that the instructor dress his beautiful little girl in a “southern Belle” dress because it refers to slavery?? What a waste of time!!
C’mon Mike, another wasted opportunity to show us all that you are different, that change is in the air, and that there stands a leader at the helm of the ASUPD.
I hope I am not the next one to get blindsided by the University because if the chief couldn’t even address the incorrect info regarding race, how will he ever stand up for me or anyone else?
There’s a reason Mike was chosen as the new chief of police by the university’s leadership. Mike’s a YES man and he’s very proficient at brown-nosing.
Mike is all about Mike. Mike, you might have some fooled, but you don’t have the majority fooled with your duplicity and suave elocution.
Mike’s big plans for the PD’s future? Keep the current command staff in place and run the department similar to Pickens.
Mike, we’ll continue to expose you at every juncture until you’re unceremoniously removed from power like your predecessor.
Regarding Thompson keeping the same command staff in place:
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein, (attributed)
US (German-born) physicist (1879 – 1955)
No matter who was picked for chief they are only as good as the people they are surrounded by in command. I don’t know Thompson, at least he wasn’t raised up through the ranks by Chief Asshole Pickens and he had a chance to onview leadership at Mesa PD. Thompson is surrounded by people hostile to him who undermined their previous boss as he unwittingly gave them a free hand to destroy this department.
Pickens had the worst qualities you could find for someone in leadership position and completely out of touch. Pickens surrounded himself by similar types of people he moved up through the ranks. This gave ASUPD a top heavy mess full of toxic supervisors and no “worker bees” as Pickens liked to call us.
Why do people leave? Why have we always been hiring? Because these our current command and their friends created a hostile work environment that turned off many people more qualified than them.
This forced ASUPD employees into four categories; Employees who made up the clique running this department, new employees with no experience, employees who could escape the IA retention plan, and burned out employees who couldn’t. It’s a fact and everyone knows it.
Our PD hasn’t been up to the task because it never had a chance to grow under Pickens and his gang of handpicked overfed thugs who made it up to command. What has changed? Nothing. These same people are in charge of the respective campuses and the problems continue.
The only thing that promotes change at ASUPD is negative press exposure. Every panicked call to Julie Newberg is a call for success. More people need to contact the writers of the last republic article ( http://www.azcentral.com/story/news/local/tempe/2014/09/21/asu-police-staffing-lags-campus-growth/15999573/ kand let them know about the problems we all face. With enough press coverage change will happen. They work hard at keeping up appearances.
There is no way to see positive changes happening at our police department with the same old shit inhabiting leadership positions who don’t even understand the basics of leadership because they lack the fundamentals of integrity. Without them this blog wouldn’t be possible. With them it will continue to grow.
This poster is by no means a complete supporter of Chief Thompson for various reasons, however, the man is probably being hamstrung to an extent by the university’s leadership on what he can do to make sweeping changes within the police department.
Dr. Michael Crow, ASU’s president, Dr. Morgan Olsen, ASU’s CFO, and Kevin Salcido (HR), probably collectively control to a considerable degree how the university’s police department administratively and functionally operates.
Keep in mind, the ones that hold the purse strings, etc., control virtually every major aspect of how a department within any organization ultimately operates.
Chief Thompson, we still expect you to have some inner fortitude and figure out how to start removing problem employees that occupy the third-floor and beyond and reforming the department.
Mind you, some of the problem employees have been key participants or planners over the years in mismanaging the department and maliciously drumming out some of our finest police officers.
Chief Thompson, there’s a good reason we struggle every day to adequately staff all four campuses with police officers. Start holding your people accountable, especially your command staff.
Chief Thompson, give us something positive to post regarding the department and its leadership. Until then, we’ll continue to expose the internal problems in the department and the university through this forum and other appropriate media outlets.
Looks like Arizona State University made the front page of the Sunday edition of the Arizona Republic, dated Nov. 23, 2014: “Few Convictions in ASU Sexual Assaults.”