Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Hundreds of Arizona cops retire under scrutiny

Hundreds of officers across the Valley have handed in their badge - rather than face discipline.

CBS 5 Investigates found that in many cases, they took a full pension and benefits with them - seemingly retiring their troubles away.

"I served 23 years with absolutely no discipline," said former Phoenix Police Officer Philip Shores.

Shores is correct. Even though an internal audit found he mishandled nearly 80 percent of his child sex crime cases, he was never disciplined. Instead, he retired with a full pension.

"I've had no contact with the police department since I retired," Shores told CBS 5 News during an interview last week.

Shores is not alone.

"It's absolutely frustrating," said Chief Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia.

He spoke candidly about the issue.

"We're in an atmosphere where we have to show transparency to our community and show accountability to our community," Garcia said.

The controversial practice of retiring to escape punishment extends across the state.

Take Goodyear Police Chief Mark Brown and commander Ralph McLaughlin - both were accused of covering up a hit-and-run that killed 18-year-old Jered Pendleton from Avondale. Both retired.

Lt. Col. Jack Hegerty with Arizona's Department of Public Safety accepted Arizona Diamondback tickets from an agency DPS regulates. Rather than face two days suspension for the conflict of interest violation, he retired.

This summer, Phoenix police Sgt. Arnold David got caught on surveillance allegedly pocketing several thousand dollars during a robbery call. He too, retired.

"I think the guy ought to go to prison," said Bill Louis, former Phoenix police assistant chief and IA investigator.

Louis spent years investigating officers that were accused of violating policies and even breaking the law.

These cases are not always a cut and dry situation.

State law requires that Arizona POST, which certifies police officers, be notified when an officer quits. And that officer can't get a another law enforcement job in-state - until the investigation is over. [Click here to read the Arizona POST report on all misconduct and criminal cases they've handled] 

Criminal cases have more clear-cut rules.

"We have pursued charges against an officer even after they quit," Louis said. "We've had goodness - we've had officers for bank robbery, for theft, for drugs, for stealing property - and they quit. And we still went after them criminally."

In the last decade, more than 1,700 police officers were investigated on criminal charges of: assault, drug use, sexual misconduct and the list goes on and on. Of those 1,700 officers, 617 lost their certification and will never be able to work as cops again in this state.

Even Chief Daniel Garcia said those criminal prosecutions are not good enough.

"We want to be able to hold our officers accountable from an administrative standpoint and criminal," Garcia said.


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