In a column today in the East Valley Tribune, former police officer Bill Richardson takes the Arizona Department of Public Safety to task for a baseball-ticket scandal and other possible signs of a failed agency.
New Times broke the story last December of the investigation into the DPS' former No. 2 guy, Jack Hegarty, for allegedly taking baseball tickets from the trucking industry. We followed that up last week with a feature article detailing the cozy relationship between DPS higher-ups and the Arizona Trucking Association. The ATA had been treating DPS commercial-vehicle enforcement supervisors including Hegarty to primo seats at Arizona Diamondbacks games, our investigation showed, and Hegarty -- with approval from DPS Director Robert Halliday -- banned most highway patrol officers from stopping commercial vehicles unless they had suspicion of a traffic violation.
Hegarty, during the internal probe into the ticket scandal that preceded his unexpected retirement in January, complained that he was being treated unfairly -- since Halliday took free tickets from the ATA, too.
Richardson's column notes other recent problems with the DPS, including a recent rapping by the U.S. Senate for "questionable spending" in an anti-terrorism program.
"Since Halliday was handpicked by Gov. Jan Brewer," Richardson writes, "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."
Richardson stops short of calling for Halliday's resignation following that criticism, but wonders at the end of his column, "Has DPS become another failed state agency?"
We're hoping to see more details in the future about the problems at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center, which is run by DPS. As an October 7 article by Cronkite News Service pointed out:
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a written statement that the committee's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations "found a remarkable degree of ineffectiveness, ineptitude and waste" in the program.
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McCain's statement stands in stark contrast to a sentence on the DPS bio for Halliday:
Director Halliday also served as the Commander of the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center that is a nationally recognized model in the development of the "fusion center" counter terrorism concept.
The "overspending" at ACTIC included the purchase of two pricey SUVs for terrorism liaison officers at the Flagstaff and Arizona State University police departments. At least one of the trucks was used for workplace commuting. But federal oversight of the spending was lax, a Senate investigation found, making it unclear how much of the overspending can be blamed on state officials. More troubling was the allegation by the Senate that the ACTIC set up a "wire room" for surveillance related to criminal investigations, even though program rules "do not include covert or surreptitious intelligence gathering."
With the sort of ethics-bending leadership at the DPS that our sports-ticket article exposed, it's easy to imagine that other, perhaps more serious problems, are yet to be discovered.