Actually doing what you said you would creates trust and builds credibility. Failing to honor your promise or explain why you may not be able to fully maintain that commitment creates distrust. When this occurs in our government, by those who seek public office or by bureaucrats - the perception of dishonesty is magnified. It has become expected, almost as if we know false promises are being made – to gain favor, calm a complaint or to win an election.
During my election as your Sheriff, I asked for the opportunity to serve you. I made numerous commitments, promises and spoke of improving emergency response times, improve training, usher in more computers in patrol vehicles, hold employees accountable and step up enforcement against drug smugglers and local criminals. I view this as a sacred trust that you provided me and I shall honor that with all of my ability.
We have seen a clear spike in Theft, Burglary, Domestic Violence and Homicide in Pinal County. More than half of our county's population lives in the unincorporated areas of our county - which means that PCSO are the Police and primary responders in those areas. In addition, we are charged with a multi-jurisdictional SWAT team, Search & Rescue, Narcotics Task Force and DUI Task Force as well as providing assistance to smaller police agencies in many of their functions. Meanwhile, our population continues to grow and at a higher percentage in unincorporated areas than anywhere else.
Photo Radar: I promised to end the photo radar program, which was managed by the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office and contracted with Redflex. Redflex is the private contractor which operated the camera vans and process the ticketing. Prior to assuming office on January 1st, I met with executives of Redflex who agreed to end their contract effective midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Drug Seizures: We have stepped up enforcement against drug smugglers and intend to seize their money and assets. Our drug seizures have nearly quadrupled in the past three months and we have seized over 73 vehicles from these criminals in the first three months of 2009. We shall take the criminals’ dirty money and vehicles and use them for law enforcement purposes to add to our limited financial resources during this budget crisis. We are using RICO funds (money and property seized from criminal racketeering) for new motorcycles (approx $56k), for the new lease of our proposed San Tan Sub-station on Ironwood/Ocotillo area (approx $80k) for SWAT equipment and to fund specialized training.
Computers or Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs): We started with on 29 MDTs in our patrol vehicles. Today we have 91 MDTs in Patrol vehicles and more enroute. The Sheriff’s Office recently added 44 new vehicles to our fleet, each equipped with new wireless computers, enabling Deputies to write reports in the field. We are also going through the vendor selection process or "Request for Proposal" (RFP) to select the latest & greatest model/features for Law Enforcement MDTs.
Direct Report writing: In the past, PCSO reports were written by a deputy or detective and the supervisor may approve and 8-10 secretaries would perform a quality control checks and upload the final report into Spillman (law enforcement report writing system). Pcso's operation and customer service had been adversely impacted from backlogged law enforcement reports, which numbered as high as 10,000 un-entered or not fully completed reports. This inefficiency had subsequently harmed operations, by denying the information and intelligence contained in these reports in order to pro-actively fight crime. Furthermore, the information can not be accessed by the 13 other law enforcement agencies in Pinal County and other who utilize the Spillman report system.
We changed the report writing process and eliminated the third step. Deputies now write the final draft and the supervisor approves the report for uploading into Spillman. As of this past Thursday, we are completely caught up and have zero backlogged reports. We have achieved this through the diligent work of our administrative support staff entering in these past due reports.
This has resulted in improved customer service to the citizens, by eliminating needless delay in obtaining their public report. The timely entering of criminal reports into Spillman has also allowed law enforcement the benefit of the needed information on criminal statistics, patterns of crime and hot spots, thus allowing law enforcement to be pro-active in order to best protect Pinal County families.
Re-fielding Patrol resources: More than half of our county's population lives in unincorporated areas of our county - which mean that we are the Police and primary responders there. We are re-fielding our limited patrol resources, to best deploy our Deputies to respond to emergencies faster. Pinal County’s population has drastically increased in unincorporated areas, yet with little change in the management or delivery of law enforcement service. We have added additional Deputies to Patrol from other assignments and will continue to demand a higher degree of discipline and accountability from our organization. Our emergency response time for a Deputy to a Priority #1 Emergency call is 13.6 minutes. Response times for a Priority #2 Urgent call remains over 18 minutes. This is unacceptable and is why we have added more Deputies to the road to answer your emergency calls and reduce our response times. Many citizens have observed an increased presence by our Patrol Deputies in their communities. We are working harder and we are working smarter. I personally hosted four meetings with Chief Deputy Steve Henry and our sworn Patrol Staff in every area of the county to develop plans to re-deploy our limited patrol resources in order to reduce emergency response times.
Motor Unit: Through restructuring, we have created a new Traffic Team consisting of a Sergeant, Corporal and three Deputies. This new Motorcycle Unit received new Honda Police equipped motorcycles last week and all five are in their first week of motorcycle school at CARLOTA at Central Arizona College in Coolidge. This specially trained and disciplined unit will improve traffic safety by focusing on accident investigations, public education, targeted traffic enforcement and DUI investigations.
We have created a multi-agency DUI Task Force and have commitments from all 13 local Police agencies to participate in monthly DUI enforcement details. This shall improve traffic safety for our Pinal County families and improves multi-jurisdictional cooperation to address any law enforcement matter.
Training: Our aggressive training program has started with improving report writing and mandatory certification in 1st Aid/CPR. We are offering training for patrol to respond to an Active Shooter. This is 2-day scenario based training; to provide Patrol Deputies and local Police Departments the tactical skills to defeat an armed and active threat prior to SWAT arrival.
SWAT: Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) team is another area where local Police agencies join together to pool our limited resources to address threats and criminal activity. Our SWAT team has been dramatically reorganized to achieve higher standards for training and performance. We created a SWAT Oversight Committee, tasked with assessing and identifying equipment and training needs, restoring standards through the development of policy and standard operating procedures and will recommend a permanent SWAT Commander to lead the team.
Former Eloy Police Capitan Shane Blakeman was named interim SWAT Commander and Cpt. Blakeman is now PCSO’s Patrol Captain and permanent SWAT Commander. He has established improved training, discipline and fitness requirements. An independent committee assigned to review PCSO SWAT Policies and Procedures following the tragic death of Casa Grande Police Sergeant Tate Lynch listed numerous deficiencies and made specific recommendations for improvements. The report is clear in terms of our many failings. We shall honor Sgt. Tate Lynch through more than just words - we will honor him by our actions. As your Sheriff, I will ensure our SWAT team is properly trained, fully equipped and has disciplined leaders who are highly qualified. Our citizens and our SWAT team expect, deserve and shall get nothing less.
Dispatch Manager: We have hired Jennifer Foster Dispatch Manager position that Sandy Gilstad has maintained as an additional duty to her 911 manager duties. We shall hire two additional Dispatch Supervisors by July 1st - who will be working supervisors. This will provide the proper staffing required supporting two channels 24/7.
If Dispatch is only able to staff one channel - then everyone is on one channel and most radio traffic is restricted. That is the problem that we are trying to fix. We still need to conduct business and communicate regarding every other dispatched call and ensure we keep every other Patrol Deputy and supervisor safe.
This is why we are working to get a 2nd channel operational 24/7. I fully understand there are many problems with the lack of adequate communications. We need more staff, improved Dispatch training, need for quality portable radios (Statue of Liberty pose) and repeaters to allow for county wide use of all channels.
Vehicle Impound: Former Cpl Chris Encisco started last week as PCSO’s civilian Impound Hearings Officer. ARS 28-3511 requires law enforcement to impound vehicle and allows for law enforcement to charge $150 dollar administrative fee for every impound. PCSO has not charged this fee and has lost over $240,000 annually. We are now charging this fee and will generate over $300,000. per year, which can only be expended by the agency for law enforcement purposes. This money will fund the hearing officer’s salary and two new Dispatch Supervisors. This change will also free up Patrol Supervisors who have been tasked with this time consuming additional duty of impound hearings.
Fair and Even Discipline: In any uniformed organization with 700 employees, fair, consistent and timely discipline is essential. I have been working closely with Law Enforcement Chief Steve Henry and Detention Chief Jim Kimble to work through and action dozens of Internal Affairs (IA) investigations that have been backlogged for as long as two years. Most of these cases have been cleared, some require further investigation and others have been referred to outside police agencies. I have been troubled by some employee violations we have found and the subsequent lack of fairness and timeliness in regards to discipline.
We continue to overhaul our General Orders, which are the internal rules and policies established to ensure that professional standards are observed and maintained in most law enforcement agencies. As you may suspect – our Sheriff’s Office has not updated this policy manual in over a decade. My intent is to make internal discipline even handed, consistent and addressed in a reasonable period of time – within 60 days in most cases. This is fair to the employee being investigated and also has a legitimate impact on behavior.
Grants: I have recruited Tim Gaffney from the Governor’s Office of Highway Saftey (GOHS). Tim has already applied for nearly $7 million dollars in grant funds to enhance our law enforcement operations. PCSO did not have a coordinator and therefore lost millions in state and federal monies. With great budgetary concerns we must be efficient in the utilization of our resources and have had to research and seek additional funding resources to support our efforts.
PCSO Explorer Post #1875: A youth Explorer has been established with four branches based in Queen Creek, San Manuel, Arizona City and one branch to work alongside our Horse Mounted Unit. This highly successful program will allow our teenagers positive interaction with Deputies in a disciplined program focusing on education in law enforcement, fitness and civic involvement.
Financial Audit: I have requested a financial audit of all PCSO finances to be performed by Lori Stripling (Internal Audit Officer) or by an outside Financial Audit team. This will give our Sheriff’s Office a needed clean bill of financial health. We must be transparent in our financial operations in order to maintain the trust of the public and to ensure our professionalism.
Jail Operations Assessment: Our first ever assessment of our Jail Operations has been completed in January at my request and a written assessment has been provided to Chief James Kimble and Jail Commanders. This was not a financial audit, but a complete top to bottom assessment of our operations and we were measured against the American Correctional Association (ACA) standards. The audit assessed every aspect of our Jail, including but not limited to: security, record keeping, key/tool/chemical control, correctional healthcare practices, equipment inspections, food service operations, staff training and staffing (scheduling and supervisors). We now have a road map to move ahead, with clearly identified strengths, areas that need improvement and failings.
Jail staffing improvements have been approved which will ensure command supervision 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This improvement will not result in increased costs, but will allow for on site supervision by a Lieutenant during nights and on weekends.
We have changed past policy regarding misdemeanor booking of suspects. PCSO now allows all Pinal County Deputies and local Police Officers to book misdemeanors. In the past, local officers were limited in their enforcement ability, where a motorist driving on a suspended Driver’s License could not be arrested and booked. A trespasser could not be arrested and taken to jail. A person involved in disorderly conduct or fighting could not be taken away, nor a person causing criminal damage – unless it was a felony. This has changed – officers now have the ability and are encouraged to take any enforcement action that they believe is necessary.
Discipline of Four PCSO employees
Four PCSO employees have been terminated this week.
On February 18, 2009 Sgt. Ron Ryan an 18 year veteran showed up for firearms training with alcohol on his breath. He was terminated on May 12, 2009 following an internal affairs investigation which revealed he had a BAC of .120 while on duty and in uniform.
On May 11, 2009 Deputy Cardest James was terminated following an lengthy internal affairs investigation into numerous violations to failures to maintain Intoxylizer 8000 records for several months which resulted in the dismissal of numerous DUI cases, for providing a civilian observer a loaded shot-gun during a police involved shooting incident on October 18, 2008 and exposing the civilian to a potential deadly situation. Deputy James made numerous false statements to internal affairs investigators throughout the investigation. Deputy James also engaged in a confrontation, off duty, with a member of the public identifying himself as a Deputy with the Sheriff’s Office.
On May 14, 2009 Dispatcher Brittany Beauchamp was terminated for failing to follow her supervisor’s instructions and for un-truthfulness after she was found to have lied during the investigation.
On May 14, 2009 Detention Officer Brian Hernandez was terminated after an internal investigation into an off duty DUI arrest revealed that he had been dishonest throughout the investigation multiple times as well as for his dishonesty with Department of Public Safety Officers during the arrest.
The majority of our 700 full-time PCSO employees are exemplary in their performance and sincere in their commitment to protect and serve you and our families. Just this week I was reminded of the selfless acts and heroism of the brave men and women who serve our community. I had the privilege of pinning a Lifesaving Medal on the chest of Deputy Russell Warren. Deputy Warren saved the lives of four people with the help of Deputy David Hernandez and Cpl Garric Berry. A Purple Heart was also pinned to the proud chest of Cpl Chris Encisco in front of his family. Cpl Encisco was responding lights and sirens to a domestic violence call and was involved in a head on collision with an impaired driver, thereby forcing his medical retirement. These are just a few of the countless incidents of exemplary service and heroism daily.
We have made numerous improvements and there are many more changes in process. All of these improvements in operations, current training of staff and use of modern technology will allow us to become more efficient and more effective. It will help us to do more with less.
I am honored to serve as your Sheriff and I will be relentless in the pursuit of improved service through increased discipline, training and accountability.
Paul R. Babeu, Sheriff
Pinal County, Arizona