Richardson: Has DPS become another failed Arizona agency? - East Valley Tribune: Columnists

Richardson: Has DPS become another failed Arizona agency?

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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, November 1, 2012 9:14 am | Updated: 7:49 pm, Sun Nov 4, 2012.

More bad news about the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

The Oct. 25 Phoenix New Times story, "DPS Honchos' Ethics Are Questioned After Sports-Ticket Probe," told about the coziness of DPS Director Bobby Halliday, some of his command staff and members of Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Unit with the Arizona Trucking Association and its lobbyist. DPS is Arizona’s lead agency in enforcing laws that deal with commercial trucks.

According to the story, “DPS officials took expensive baseball tickets from the trucking association in 2010 and 2011.” A 2011 internal investigation of Jack Hegarty, a former lieutenant colonel, “revealed that the practice of DPS supervisors accepting baseball tickets from representatives of the industry they regulated had become routine.” Hegarty retired in lieu of suspension over his involvement in the scandal. Hegarty and Halliday were reportedly very close friends.

The story said the internal investigation revealed “Halliday remembered going to only two Diamondbacks games with the lobbyist. The first was in 2009, during the break in his service between retiring and becoming director and a second time after becoming director, either in the "early 2010" or "early 2011" season. Halliday said he was "under the impression" that Hegarty bought the tickets from the lobbyist.

Free or paid for, either way, DPS officials shouldn’t be getting baseball tickets from an industry they regulate.

During Halliday’s Arizona Senate confirmation hearing, the former DPS middle manager was quizzed about his coziness with the trucking industry. After his confirmation, DPS altered its policy and prohibited officers from making “administrative stops” on trucks, which do not require probable cause but are done to check drivers’ log books and look for safety violations. Safety checks aren’t the only concerns when it comes to truckers.

Rogue elements within the trucking industry play a key role in the supply chain of Mexico-based organized crime groups.

Retired U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Phil Jordan, who commanded the El Paso Intelligence Center, told me, “The cartels have deep infiltrations in the trucking industry. Law enforcement cannot afford to look the other way. Commercial trucks are used extensively to carry drugs throughout the United States and then return the proceeds to cartel bosses in Mexico. Arizona’s highways play a major role in this process.”

DPS’s troubles aren’t just with the trucking industry.

In recent years, local police have been forced to take on duties that DPS is supposed to perform. From investigating organized crime to running crime labs, to collecting and exchanging statewide information on criminals, cities are increasingly having to perform DPS’s statutory duties.

City officials may complain quietly about DPS, but the U.S. Senate complains openly.

In the Cronkite News story featured in the Oct. 7 East Valley Tribune, "Arizona police agencies criticized in Senate," there was criticism of the DPS-run Arizona Counter Terrorism Intelligence Center, ACTIC, for “questionable spending” and building a secret wiretap room. Program guidelines prohibit “surreptitious intelligence gathering.”

The story also said “the ACTIC was linked to incorrect information after the 2011 shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Many of the claims they made were later proven false. This showed how weak analysis could hinder law enforcement efforts.”

Sen. John McCain, said the Senate investigation “found a remarkable degree of ineffectiveness, ineptitude and waste.” That would describe the ACTIC that many have told me has failed to live up to expectations.

While the border and immigration continues to get the bulk of attention from state elected officials, someone needs to start paying attention to our own homegrown public safety failures that have allowed organized crime to put down roots and grow throughout Arizona.

Since Halliday was handpicked by Gov. Jan Brewer, DPS has been plagued with morale problems, cronyism, ethical questions and concerns about its inability to perform statutory duties.

There are reasons organized crime from Mexico likes doing business in Arizona and an inadequate statewide law enforcement system could be one of them.

Has DPS become another failed state agency?

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