We’re all at risk until Arizona’s ways are fixed - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

We’re all at risk until Arizona’s ways are fixed

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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: Thursday, January 6, 2011 2:15 pm | Updated: 11:28 pm, Wed May 25, 2011.

Wednesday’s dramatic shootout at Chandler Fashion Center brings to light the importance of inter-agency cooperation when it comes to public safety in the Valley.

Law enforcement from the Chandler, Tempe and Mesa police departments as well as the Department of Public Safety, Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Marshal’s Service and local fire departments all had a hand in apprehending Adam Hernandez after a pair of shootouts at the Chandler mall.

U.S. Marshals initially thought fugitive Daniel Perez was involved in the shootings, a fact that also exposes the need for cooperation.

Perez is the man who was arrested after allegedly shooting at two DPS officers in Casa Grande on Dec. 10, only to be mistakenly released six days later in a paperwork snafu involving three different agencies.

Perez was wounded by DPS officers in the Dec. 10 incident and transported to the Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix for surgery.

According to Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office jail records, Perez was officially arrested by DPS at the medical center jail ward Dec. 14 on a felony arrest warrant issued on Dec. 11 by the Pinal County Justice of the Peace Court charging him with two counts of aggravated assault on the DPS officers. Bond was set at $500,000. Perez received a formal reading of the criminal charges before a Maricopa County judge the same day. The name of a DPS sergeant and his contact phone number were listed on the booking sheet in case anyone had questions about Perez and the charges against him. While in the custody of MCSO, he was housed in maximum-security and considered a flight risk.

Perez was also being held on an outstanding misdemeanor arrest warrant issued by the Pinal County Justice of the Peace Court on Jan. 15, 2009. That bond was set at $320.

On Dec. 16, Perez was turned over to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office. He then made another court appearance, this time in the Pinal County Justice of the Peace Court, and was released from custody after posting bond on the misdemeanor charge.

For still completely unanswered reasons, Perez wasn’t held to answer for the felony arrest warrant issued by the same Pinal county court for his alleged attack on the two DPS officers.

Perez’s current whereabouts are unknown. He is considered to be a serious threat to police officers. And if he’s a serious threat to police officers, he’s a serious threat to the general public.

So who dropped the ball and made our streets that much more unsafe?

According to the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office, Perez’s name was checked through the FBI’s National Crime Information Center before his release to determine if there were any other outstanding charges against him. When the check came back with only the misdemeanor charge, he was allowed to post bond and was released.

DPS has said it completed the necessary paperwork to hold Perez on the aggravated assault charges. The Pinal County Attorney’s Office said it filed the appropriate paperwork with the Justice of the Peace Court “to try and cover this exact situation,” referring to Perez’s escaping justice.

Is everyone just covering their backside? What really happened?

According to the Arizona Criminal Justice Commission, only 67 percent of our state’s criminal justice system records are accurate. This kind of system weakness gives a criminal a one in three chance of beating the odds and escaping justice. Perez appears to be another one of the lucky ones who, if only temporarily free, beat Arizona’s outdated, inefficient and ineffective criminal justice system.

It’s the 21st Century and Arizona still doesn’t have a statewide criminal justice information collection and sharing system that can collect data and share it instantaneously with officers, jails and courts.

Whether it was a system failure or a series of goofs by government employees, Perez should’ve never slipped through a gigantic crack in Arizona’s criminal justice system that was and still is just begging to be exploited.

Until Perez is caught and Arizona’s current ways of doing things are fixed, we’re all at risk.

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

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