I want to thank David Gonzales, the U. S. Marshal for Arizona, for once again leading the effort to identify, locate and arrest wanted felons who have fled from justice. During the week of April 16, Gonzales and his deputies — with the cooperation of local police, the sheriff, state police and probation officers — led efforts to arrest more than 200 wanted felons.
The number of wanted felons in Maricopa County has dropped from more than 40,000 to approximately 30,000 over the last few years due in large part to the Gonzales’ leadership and energy.
Getting law enforcement agencies in Arizona to work together, even on common issues that impact the safety of everyone, has been described as being easier than herding cats. Gonzales, who was appointed U. S. Marshal by President George W. Bush in 2002, was reappointed in 2008 by President Barack Obama. That in itself exemplifies his unique ability to get get things done across party lines and to bring everyone to the table and to get them to work together and towards solving common problems. Gonzales has demonstrated over and over during his 35-plus year career in Arizona law enforcement that things can get done when people work together. Hats off to Gonzales, the U.S. Marshals Service and the local, county and state police who took 200 wanted felons off of our streets last month.
Another thank you is for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who threw his full support behind Gonzales’ efforts.
The sheriff also deserves credit for publicly admitting the serious threat presented by the Mexican mafia prison gang that is attempting to take control of the Maricopa County jail.
People can argue back and forth all day long about why we have this Mexican mafia problem in the jail system and on the streets. But the fact is this homegrown group works in partnership with the Mexican drug cartels and the tens of thousands of street gang members that commit a large number of serious crimes in Arizona.
Arpaio is the first local law enforcement agency head I can remember who has revealed to the public just how dangerous the Mexican mafia can be. It’s obvious they aren’t afraid of Arpaio and his deputies. That means they’re surely not afraid of the law. While the sheriff has made many mistakes, telling the truth about this threat is one of the things he’s done very right.
Lastly, thanks to the Arizona Attorney General’s office for supporting SB 1433, which would allow the state to go after rogue police departments. The effort came after it was discovered the police department in Colorado City was corrupt and breaking Arizona laws.
An amendment to the bill would have begun the process for the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to study the need to certify police agencies in Arizona. Currently, cities can pretty much have any kind of department they want — from one that meets the highest ethical and professional standards to one where police chief can be the political puppet of the mayor.
Unfortunately, SB 1433 was killed by two legislators from Mohave County — home to Colorado City. One can only wonder why state-elected officials would want to block good law enforcement in Arizona. I salute the attorney general’s office for its effort and the 25 house members who supported SB 1433.
Good law enforcement is essential for Arizona’s progress and sustainability. Hopefully those who support SB 1433 will get another chance to insure the existence of quality police agencies, making our streets that much safer.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at email@example.com.