A uniformed, on-duty Mesa police sergeant was among dozens who hurled insults or obscene gestures at immigrant protesters earlier this week, the Mesa Police Department announced Thursday.
Sgt. Mike Doherty, a 20-year veteran, will be disciplined for making an insulting gesture twice with his hands at a group of about 30 protesters when he drove past them Wednesday at Alma School Road and Main Street in his marked police truck, said spokeswoman Holly Hosac.
A few protesters took down Doherty’s license plate number and description and reported him to the department, Hosac said.
Neither Doherty nor a representative of Immigrants Without Borders, which organized the protest, could be reached for comment late Thursday.
The Mesa protest group was among several throughout the Valley who were trying to bring attention to new laws that will punish employers for hiring illegal immigrants.
Their signs said things such as “I am your cook,” and “Sorry your house isn’t clean.”
Doherty told Mesa investigators his gestures were not ethnically motivated, pointing out that his wife is Hispanic, Hosac said.
He told them “he just has a general distaste for protesters,” she said.
“Regardless of why, it is just not how an officer should behave,” Hosac said.
Doherty, 45, who had just recently become a school resource officer after years on patrol, will continue working as an officer while the department decides his punishment, Hosac said.
However, he has been removed from working in schools, she said.
Doherty was one of more than 200 Mesa officers whose e-mails were flagged last year during a city investigation into inappropriate use.
He was suspended for 40 hours after that investigation, Hosac said.