The state board that oversees police misconduct says it will not take any action against Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez for plagiarizing more than a dozen times in his monthly letters to residents.
“There’s not a case, and we aren’t doing anything with this,” said Tom Hammarstrom, executive director of Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, or AZPOST.
“I’m not even sure as to whether or not this situation is serious enough to warrant action,” he said.
But experts say plagiarism is a serious issue, one that raises questions of integrity and credibility especially for an elected law enforcement officer.
Vasquez has written more than 30 letters since taking office in 2005. Using an Internet search, the Tribune found text in 14 letters that’s exactly been replicated from other sources, even President Bush.
In many cases, the text is copied verbatim, and the lifted writing ranges in size from a few sentences to entire speeches.
Vasquez admitted that he directly “copies and pastes” material from outside sources into his letters without attribution.
He added that he doesn’t think it’s wrong.
Vasquez is a member of the AZPOST board, which determines punishments for law enforcement officers.
He was appointed to the post by Gov. Janet Napolitano in 2007. Her office declined to comment on whether Napolitano would have appointed him if the governor knew he plagiarized.
AZPOST’s purpose is to uphold the integrity of law enforcement by reviewing cases and revoking or suspending the certification of those who violate certain standards.
In 2005, one of the reasons the board permanently denied a police cadet certification was because he plagiarized essays in his job application. The classification of the cadet case was dishonesty — exactly what ethics experts say Vasquez is guilty of.
“It’s not acceptable for an elected official, and especially a law enforcement officer, to be doing this,” said Joan McGregor, an Arizona State University ethics professor.
“What’s the separation in principle between plagiarism and stealing or forging a check?” she asked.
The sheriff’s letters are distributed to newspapers across Pinal County that print them monthly. They also were posted on Vasquez’s campaign Web site.
They were removed shortly after the Tribune inquired about them Wednesday.
Vasquez told the Tribune that AZPOST officials laughed about the controversy surrounding plagiarism in his letters.
Hammarstrom said that’s not true.
“I can tell you that I and my staff do not consider plagiarizing a joke or a laughing matter at all,” he said. “Plagiarism is a serious issue and is inappropriate conduct.”
Still, Hammarstrom said AZPOST didn’t find it necessary to initiate a misconduct investigation.