The Pinal County Sheriff's Office said Friday it will accelerate an internal investigation into employee e-mail use, a decision coming two days after a Tribune report revealed that a homicide detective had dozens of pornographic and racially insensitive messages stored on his county computer.
Sheriff's officials said an investigation was planned before the Tribune's report. It was launched in November after the county's Information Technology department found questionable content while doing a quality-control check, sheriff's spokeswoman Vanessa White said.
The investigation was a two-part probe that began with the detention staff and was to later move to the patrol division.
But after the Tribune's report, Sheriff Chris Vasquez ordered the investigation of the patrol division to start immediately.
Vasquez couldn't be reached for comment.
The Tribune found more than 90 attachments in detective Buddy Johnson's e-mails that were personal in nature, pornographic or racially themed.
His files included pictures of partially nude women, shots of genitalia and videos depicting graphic sexual acts. Some e-mails also seemed to mock blacks.
The Tribune requested e-mail files from several PCSO employees two months ago. Johnson's were the first produced.
Several sheriff's officials said they were unaware of the graphic material in his e-mails until contacted by the Tribune.
Johnson's e-mails chronicle correspondence from April 2007 to 2008. The sexual and racially insensitive nature of the e-mails are in direct violation of county policy, which says that Internet access is limited to business purposes during business hours.
The policy forbids "composing, transmitting, accessing, or receiving data which contain sexual implications or comments that offensively address race, color, religion or gender," according to the county's human resources department.
The internal investigation is expected to be lengthy. The probe of the detention staff has already turned up several cases of "soft porn" being distributed. It also found employees exchanging games, music and video, officials said.
The sheriff's office said it will not release the names of involved officers or employees until the investigation is completed.
PCSO's situation mirrors a 2006 scandal in Mesa that revealed similar inappropriate messages distributed widely across the police department. More than 200 officers were involved and the action was recorded in their personnel files.
In a released statement, the sheriff's office said that individuals involved in the e-mail investigation could face charges of inappropriate performance of duty, moral conduct and use of computer.
The charges carry punishments up to termination.