Monday, January 23, 2012

Former Buckeye police officer loses Arizona certification

A former Buckeye police officer has been stripped of his certification to be a peace officer in Arizona but a former Goodyear commander will not face disciplinary action in an unrelated matter.

The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, which oversees peace-officer training, conduct and certification, revoked former Buckeye Officer Ralph Peck's peace-officer certification at its hearing Wednesday, and opted not to open a disciplinary case against former Goodyear Cmdr. Ralph McLaughlin.

Peck, a 17-year police veteran, was fired in July 2010 "for repeated displays of poor judgment, unacceptable conduct and negligence" after internal audits found he did not complete several reports and mishandled evidence, according to AZ POST documents.

The two audits in December 2007 and October 2009 found Peck, a school resource officer, had failed to complete 131 reports for such crimes as assault, child abuse, sex offenses, domestic violence and auto theft. The first audit also found that he improperly handled and stored six pieces of evidence when he left marijuana, a knife and pellet gun in the drawer of his desk on school property.

After the first audit, Peck acknowledged the wrongdoing, citing lack of supervision and time, was placed on supplemental probation for one year and a performance-improvement program and suspended 138 hours without pay.

In May 2010, Peck left his department-issued AR-15 rifle and ammunition on the hood of his patrol car from about 1 a.m. to 5:50 a.m., AZ POST documents state. Another officer discovered the weapon and gave it to a lieutenant for safekeeping. Peck said he did not recall leaving the gun on the hood of his car.

He was fired July 14, 2010. He appealed the termination in May after returning from active military service, but the firing was upheld.

McLaughlin resigned as the Goodyear Police Department's second-in-command July 8 amid multiple investigations into mismanagement and misconduct allegations.

He was accused of poor leadership and lax discipline, particularly in relation to a 2008 fatal hit-and-run in which a Goodyear officer was accused, and of unlawfully releasing court information about a former colleague. The AZ POST case focused on the incident involving the unlawful release of court information, documents show.

A Phoenix police investigation found that in February McLaughlin released indictment information to the media before a judge had signed off on it and the defendant, a former Goodyear police sergeant, had been notified. Releasing indictment information is a misdemeanor when not done as part of official duties.

The Yavapai County Attorney's Office opted not to file charges against McLaughlin because there was not enough evidence "beyond a reasonable doubt" that he had the "necessary criminal intent" when he released the information.

An AZ POST official said generally the board looks at corruption and typically does not discipline officers for "simple mistakes."

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