The Maricopa Police Department has terminated its relationship with Al Suckerman, the 2009 volunteer of the year and cofounder of the local Volunteers In Police Service unit.
The termination comes in the aftermath of Suckerman blowing the whistle on Maricopa Police Sgt. James Hudspeth for allegedly stealing a floor jack from a suspect’s vehicle earlier this year.
However, Maricopa Police Chief Kirk Fitch said the termination has nothing to do with the Hudspeth incident.
Instead, he said Suckerman’s termination stems from an inability to effectively communicate through the department’s chain of command and a poor attitude about the department since the incident.
Suckerman contends his whistle blowing is the primary grounds for the termination.
“There is no doubt about it,” Suckerman said. “My termination is a message to other volunteers and employees in the department to not question actions of Maricopa police officers or command staff. The day I saw Hudspeth steal the floor jack, there were several other officers who witnessed the incident and said nothing. It appears that the policy at MPD is to not report these type of incidents.”
Fitch said this is not the policy of his department, stating that several others came forward to report the incident.
In addition to his disagreements with the department, Fitch said Suckerman was terminated for failing to log eight volunteer hours every month.
Suckerman admits to not volunteering at the levels he once did, but said it was a result of feeling ostracized by the department and focusing a little more on his career.
“To say I was let go for not doing eight hours is a convenient excuse. There are plenty of volunteers who don’t log eight hours [a month].”
Giving examples of retaliation, Suckerman said his volunteer car was taken away, he was removed from the volunteer detail duty list, he was not invited to the annual police awards ceremony and was left out of a cultural assessment when other volunteers were included.
According to Suckerman, one uncomfortable incident occurred about a month ago when he went to greet Lt. Willie Payne and Sgt. Hudspeth with a handshake. “Lt. Payne shook my hand but Hudspeth just turned his back to me,” he said.
At the same time, Suckerman admitted that he had refused to work with certain command staff members who had sent him threats for reporting Hudspeth’s theft of the floor jack.
Despite the termination and aftermath, Suckerman said he is not bitter and that he supports the officers in the department 100 percent, though he would like to see an external audit of the department.
“Some of the things going on in MPD are head-scratchers,” he said.