Arizona DPS director announces plan to retire 1 day after state DOC director plans to resign

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Heston Silbert announced his plans to retire by the end of the first week of January.

In what appeared to be an impromptu video directed to the rank and file, Silbert said he expected to be replaced by the newly elected governor, reflected on his reputation as a "hard-core street cop" turned administrator and thanked employees for their service.

"It has been an honor of a lifetime to have served the men and women of the Department of Public Safety, and the citizens of this great state," Silbert wrote in a statement released along with the video. "As Director, I observed firsthand the selflessness, dedication, and bravery of our Arizona State Troopers and professional staff."

Silbert said his retirement will take effect on Friday — four days after Gov. Katie Hobbs was sworn into office. Silbert thanked former Gov. Doug Ducey, who appointed him in March 2020, for his support. He concluded his statement with an allusion that his future at the agency would have been short-lived regardless of his decision to retire.

Health: One of the world's largest medical device suppliers told staff to speak up. Then a safety advocate raised alarms and was fired.

"I understand the process and wish nothing but the best for Governor Hobbs and her team."

Josselyn Berry, a Hobbs spokesperson, confirmed to The Arizona Republic that the newly minted governor had told Silbert that she planned to replace him.

“We are not yet announcing the new hire at this time,” Berry said.

In the unlisted YouTube video posted on the department's channel Tuesday, Silbert said he received a call from Hobbs’ staff on Monday informing him she would not retain him.

Video: Colonel's Statement January 2023

“It doesn’t necessarily come as a shock,” Silbert says in the video. “It was just one of those things I had to be prepared for. And my attitude has been — and I want to make clear to everybody — that I would wait until that decision was made by the governor-elect and her staff. I completely understand the decision. I understand the process.”

Silbert said his reputation as a hard charger preceded him into office and that he never saw himself leading a state police agency.

"I've been said to have a reputation as a pretty hardcore street cop," he says in the video. "I don't apologize for that."

According to the agency's website, Silbert spent 22 years with the Phoenix Police Department and four years as Mesa police's assistant chief before becoming DPS' deputy director. Silbert earned a master's degree in public administration from Arizona State University and a bachelor's degree in education.

Silbert was involved in a controversial 2017 off-duty pursuit that led to the death of a U.S. Army veteran who had stolen a vehicle.

Silbert, who was serving as deputy DPS director at the time, was in his personal vehicle when he reportedly saw Brad Moore take the vehicle. Silbert initiated a chase from Gilbert to Camp Verde that ended when Moore crashed through a guardrail and rolled 400 feet down a hillside.

Moore's mother said the pursuit violated procedures and policies and never should have happened. They described their son as a former paratrooper who was discharged in 2013 and had been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

In 2018, she filed a wrongful death lawsuit against DPS, the state and the town of Gilbert. Moore's Phoenix attorney, Jason Lamm, told The Arizona Republic the agencies involved needed to be held accountable.

The status of the case was unclear Wednesday. Lamm could not immediately be reached for comment.

Silbert said he felt fortunate to lead “the greatest law enforcement agency in the United States” and thanked Ducey for the opportunity to serve in the role. He repeatedly commended troopers and staff for their service and bravery throughout the 11-minute video, saying they were what made the department what it was.

He said in the video there was nothing DPS could not handle, from investigations in far-flung corners of the state to protests at the state Capitol, which he called "riots" and compared with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

"People talk about Jan. 6 but very few people talk about the fact that people tried to take over the Senate in the state of Arizona. Literally tried to take over the Senate while it was in session," he says. "And it was all of you that stopped it."

This appears to be a reference to June protests after the overturning of Roe vs. Wade, when about 8,000 people gathered outside the statehouse. While initially peaceful, some groups began banging on the glass doors and windows of the complex while legislators were inside.

Protesters also defaced memorials in Wesley Bolin Plaza. Officers first issued warnings and then tear gas. A line of officers in SWAT gear lined up from the state Capitol and advanced on the remaining crowd.

Unlike Jan. 6, protesters in Phoenix did not breach the building and did not clash violently with law enforcement officers. Nobody died, nobody was injured and nobody was arrested, according to DPS.

Silbert's retirement announcement closely followed Arizona Department of Corrections Director David Shinn's, who announced on Dec. 23 that he planned to step down from the agency on Jan. 4.

Politics: Fact check: Gov-elect Katie Hobbs lawfully certified her win over Kari Lake in Arizona

Hobbs recently announced four public safety appointments. She brought on two newcomers to the Department of Veterans' Services and Department of Liquor Licenses and Control, retaining the heads of the Department of Emergency and Military Affairs and Department of Juvenile Corrections.

It was not immediately clear whom Hobbs would appoint to replace Silbert.

Republic reporter Robert Anglen contributed to this article.

Reach the reporter Perry Vandell at 602-444-2474 or Follow him on Twitter @PerryVandell.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Arizona Department of Public Safety director announces plan to retire