If you're wondering why you haven't seen media hog Mark Spencer flapping his lips on TV in a while, it's because Spencer is no longer president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, the union that represents rank and file Phoenix cops.
His second term expired September 1. That's when longtime PLEA hack and Spencer-pal Joe Clure stepped into the position after running unopposed during a July election.
Spencer is scheduled to leave the Phoenix Police Department in February as he is part of the DROP program, which allows cops to begin drawing their retirement into a special account, five years prior to exiting the department.
So what's Spencer doing for the remaining months, from September to February?
Well, the PPD had assigned him to the Central City Precinct. But Spencer doesn't have to worry about going out on patrol and pretending to be a real police officer.
See, PLEA has a bank of so-called "release time" as part of its contract with the city. PLEA's supposed to use the hours for training, board meetings and the like, but Spencer's pals have decided to use it to keep Spencer on for a little while longer.
PPD spokesman Trent Crump got back to me with the following statement when I asked him about Spencer's current duties:
"When Mark Spencer's term as the PLEA President concluded he was to be reassigned to the Central City Precinct. The Association has asked to utilize their negotiated release hours for Officer Spencer to continue to work on Association related issues. The use of these release hours is in accordance with the current [Memorandum of Understanding] between the City and PLEA."
Lori Steward, Phoenix's Labor Relations Administrator, told me that the PLEA has wide discretion how the hours are used. She also said she has no knowledge of what Spencer's current duties are.
The most recent issue of the PLEA rag RECAP lists Spencer as a lobbyist for the organization. Thing is, PLEA already has an in-house lobbyist in Spencer-crony Levi Bolton. PLEA's also represented by the lobbying firm Williams and Associates.
In other words, the union doesn't need another lobbyist. And considering that in the last legislative session, many of the state House and Senate members that PLEA backed ended up slashing cop benefits, some better "lobbying" than Spencer, Bolton, et al. can perform may be in order.
I phoned and e-mailed Clure, to explain this use of taxpayer funds in a tight economy. Ditto Spencer. Neither has replied to my inquiries as of yet.
Of course, it may be better for public safety in general if Spencer is not out on patrol, given the black marks in his personnel record. In one incident from his patrol days, he actually grabbed a suspect by the hair and forced him to crawl around on his hands and knees like a dog. In another, he pointed his shotgun out the window of a moving car.
More recently, while PLEA president, he instigated the collaring of a day-laborer, transporting the Mexican fella to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, without booking the suspect on an alleged trespassing charge.
Spencer got no more than a wet-noodle slap in the way of discipline for not following cop protocol.
The poor schlub hustling for odd jobs at Home Depot? He was deported, tried to return to the U.S., and was last heard being held for ransom by the coyotes who smuggled him back. No good end there.
Sure, Spencer's a menace with a badge and gun, but the city could put him to work somewhere doing something. Hell, we always need crossing guards.
BTW, if you want to see something truly sickening in the annals of sycophancy, check out the September issue RECAP, devoted exclusively to what a swell dude Spencer is.
There's a word that describes the act that Spencer's buddies are performing in that RECAP issue. Basically, it's what Mayor Phil Gordon's son, PPD officer Jeff Gordon is alleged to have received while on the beat. Only, um, a lot less understandable.