A former Phoenix police detective who punched a co-worker several times in the face last year while on duty has been stripped of his peace officer certification, in a decision that makes him permanently ineligible to work as a cop in Arizona and could keep him from becoming one in other states.
Erik M. Pearson had his peace officer certification revoked on Feb. 17 by the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (AZPOST) board. The revocation will be reported to the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training which maintains a registry of revocation actions reported by various states.
According to public records, several Phoenix police officers conducted an undercover operation on April 28, 2020 after which Pearson and another detective, identified only as T.M., had a heated telephone conversation about how the operation was managed. A short time later, as officers took a lunch break, Pearson continued complaining to T.M., who was sitting in a vehicle.
Pearson suddenly opened the vehicle’s door and then struck T.M. “in the face multiple times with a closed fist,” AZPOST Compliance Specialist Steve Jacobs told the board. Witnesses said the first punch left T.M. “unable to protect himself from the blows that followed” so another officer used his own body to protect the detective, Jacobs added.
After the incident, Phoenix police officials referred the matter to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for consideration of felony aggravated assault charges against Pearson. Public records show the city was informed on June 4, 2020 that prosecution was being declined. The reason cited by the county attorney’s office was “no reasonable likelihood of conviction.”
Pearson resigned from the police department in August 2020 in lieu of termination. He was notified via certified mail in November that the AZPOST board was considering action against his certification, but Pearson did not request a hearing nor submit a statement to the board.
Several states not only report POST revocations to the National Decertification Index but also run an applicant through the registry for any red flags. Some states even have rules which consider an applicant with an Arizona POST revocation -whether voluntary or involuntary- to be ineligible for certification.