Richardson: Arizona leaders should focus on safety of citizens, police officers - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Richardson: Arizona leaders should focus on safety of citizens, police officers

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

Posted: Friday, January 27, 2012 7:30 am | Updated: 12:30 pm, Tue Jan 31, 2012.

On Monday, Arizona State House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, announced the state Legislature was launching a probe of the federal gun smuggling operation known as "Fast and Furious."

Fast and Furious was a flawed operation to track firearms from gun dealers in the United States to drug traffickers in Mexico. It was conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, U.S. Attorney's Office in Phoenix and U.S. Department of Justice.

Tobin told the media, "Let's be serious folks, crimes happened here. We have a law enforcement agent, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, who was killed here. It's responsible for the Legislature to start having some hearings so we can do some fact finding and see where it's all going to come out."

Tobin isn't the only Arizona elected official beating the Fast and Furious drum.

In October, Pinal County Sheriff, and now candidate for U.S. Congress, Paul Babeu, who was surrounded by nine county sheriffs, blasted the feds for Fast and Furious from the steps of the Law Enforcement Officer's Memorial at the state capitol. A demand was made for U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder's resignation.

While Tobin and Babeu, both National Rifle Association groupies, lead a local anti-Fast and Furious cheering section, U.S. Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, and Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., are already ripping Holder and have no intention of letting anyone from the Justice Department getting away with the failed program's outcomes.

I'm sure that these two Washington heavyweights are quite capable of getting to the bottom of what happened and holding those accountable who failed us.

While Grassley and Issa do their jobs, it would be nice if Tobin and Babeu did theirs and focused on state and local crime and the public safety outcomes they can actually influence.

Yes, a Washington-bashing dog and pony show plays well for the media and helps raise campaign funds, but where's the concern for the ongoing failures within Arizona's law enforcement system? What about some serious talk regarding fixing what's broken at home when it comes to crime and illegal guns.

Guns are the weapon of choice when it comes to cop killing in Arizona.

According to the June 8, 2010 study conducted by now retired Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley, 20 Arizona police officers have been murdered since 1993. Since that study was completed, four more officers have been added to that list.

The Romley report also said that since 1994 over 40 percent of Arizona cop killers were classified as prohibited possessors. And since 2003 that number jumped to over 60 percent.

A prohibited possessor is someone who is legally unable to possess a firearm.

Three of four most recently murdered Arizona officers were shot by prohibited possessors.

And on Wednesday night, Mesa police were involved in a gun battle with a prohibited possessor that left an officer wounded.

Tobin and Babeu should be asking questions and demanding answers from the Arizona Department of Public Safety and state Attorney General about how prohibited possessors keep getting the guns they're using to shoot Arizona police officers, where the guns are coming from and what can be done to stop it.

And when they're done asking about guns in the hands of cop killers, they need to ask about the $1.8 million dollars the Legislature swept from the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board that has virtually stopped essential training for officers that's necessary for them to survive in a state where they're being murdered at a record rate. There's no excuse for an undertrained police officer. Officers need to be able to protect themselves in order to protect us.

Tobin and Babeu need to remember what Congresswoman Gabby Giffords said: "Do what's best for Arizona." And quit worrying about Washington and their next election and start worrying about the safety of Arizona's citizens and its police officers.

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