Richardson: E-cigarettes a distraction for Tempe PD - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: E-cigarettes a distraction for Tempe PD

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

Posted: Monday, August 4, 2014 1:00 pm

“Business owners or patrons who want to stop someone from inhaling vapors in prohibited settings can call the Tempe Police Department, which will enforce the ban.” Arizona Republic, “Tempe bans e-cigarette use in public,” Aug. 1.

That’s the position of the Tempe City Council if anyone violates Tempe’s new ordinance that “bans e-cigarettes use in bars, restaurants and enclosed public places,” even though the jury is still out on the vapors from e-cigarettes and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office issued a legal opinion that the use of e-cigarettes isn’t covered by the statewide smoking ban.

Nothing prevents an owner of a business from prohibiting the use of e-cigarettes and responding to complaints from customers. Kind of like, “no shoes, no shirt, no service.” The city that is well known for it’s out of control “loud party corridor” and notorious downtown has taken a “Big Brother” and “hang ‘em high” approach to e-cigarette use.

Councilmember Robin Arredondo-Savage told the Republic after questions were raised about what happens if e-cigarettes are shown to not be harmful to those around the vapors, “Tempe willing to reconsider its stance if new evidence calls for it.” It took the city council years to repeal their stance on prohibiting citizens from speaking at council meetings.

The evidence isn’t in on e-cigarettes, but the evidence is in and growing that Tempe has a crime problem, they can’t seem to get under control and according to a group of current and former Tempe officers I met with, the biggest part of the crime problem has been Tempe’s “a day late and a dollar short” reactive response to crime, not enough officers in patrol cars on the street and too many officers and high paid civilians filling the command ranks and offices at police headquarters.

And now the mayor and council want an already short supply of street cops out busting people for using e-cigarettes when they should be out addressing the serious crime that consumes parts of Tempe. Tempe was just named one of the “Top 10 Most Dangerous Suburbs” (

With classes about to start at Arizona State University I can visualize a sea of blue — Tempe officers wear blue uniforms — once again busting college kids in record numbers for jaywalking, drinking and puffing on e-cigarettes. All while serious crime grows and spreads.

In my July 23, 2014, East Valley Tribune column, “Tempe council candidates address methods to improve public safety,” council candidates Dick Foreman, Matt Papke and Lauren Kuby responded to my questions about crime in Tempe. Busting people for using e-cigarettes weren’t mentioned (

You’d have thought the mayor and council would be concentrating on what council candidate Foreman referred to as “safety by design” and addressing what he described as “Tale of Two Cities” — a “Tempe by day, and Tempe by night” — referring to how parts of Tempe can change to the detriment of law abiding citizens after dark.

Or they’d be addressing candidate Papke’s concerns about “focusing on local crime prevention.” Or trying to answer Papke’s compelling question, “Why does Tempe have less officers on patrol today than 10 years ago and a budget that has increased significantly?” And why does “Tempe have the highest crime and the highest cost per capita in the East Valley?”

After council candidate Kuby told the Tribune, “Because public safety absorbs a majority of our budget, we need to manage police resources in a responsible, sustainable, and transparent manner. There are no simple solutions to reducing crime or the costs of crime suppression, but Tempe can do better,” I would’ve hoped the council would’ve taken a hard look at crime and costs, and not deploying police resources to chase down and bust e-cigarette users.

So while the candidates are worried about real crime and talking about solutions, the current council is focused on policing e-cigarette use.

No wonder Tempe has a crime problem.

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