Bill Richardson: Last week, Forbes magazine announced the world's most powerful people. No. 41 was Sinaloa drug cartel head Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. He's also on Forbes' billionaires list. Guzman's obviously doing a better job of getting away with crime than law enforcement is at stopping him.
"Focus on solutions, not explanations."
Former Mesa police chief and current San Francisco chief
Last week, Forbes magazine announced the world's most powerful people. No. 41 was Sinaloa drug cartel head Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. He's also on Forbes' billionaires list. Guzman's obviously doing a better job of getting away with crime than law enforcement is at stopping him.
His cartel controls most of northern Mexico and the majority of the U.S.-Mexico border, including the 330 miles Arizona shares with Mexico. His impact on Arizona's sustainability may be just as significant as education, water and the economy.
Following the recent breakup of a border-based central Arizona drug smuggling operation that used high-tech communications equipment and a businesslike supply chain, Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, who worked with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Pinal County Sheriff's Department on the case, was quoted in an Oct. 28 Associated Press story as saying, "This is a war of technology, and I believe that the only way we are going to win it is if our technology is better than theirs."
Goddard, whose office has been gutted by the Legislature in what many believe is nothing more than petty Republican political power games that have put the entire state in jeopardy, still managed to launch an aggressive prosecutorial attack to assist local and federal law enforcement agencies.
The attorney general has long recognized the use of technology and business practices by organized crime to grow their criminal enterprises. Goddard is the first law enforcement official to go after the cartel's use of pre-paid credit cards to move money, and he's led the crackdown on electronic transfers of crime profits to Mexico.
While some in law enforcement and policymaking are fixated on the picking the low-hanging fruit, Goddard has shown a greater understanding of the enemy than most, a willingness to take the war to those who would cause us the greatest harm and a desire to find new tools to make his mission even more successful.
Last week, Goddard spent time at the East Valley Gang and Crime Information Fusion Center housed at the Mesa Police Department. He wanted to see how East Valley police and federal law enforcement agencies use technology and true intelligence-driven policing to attack organized crime. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that up to 80 percent of serious crime is committed by organized crime groups.
Arizona Department of Public Safety Director Roger Vanderpool and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio have refused to join this technologically advanced and successful multiagency effort. The center was the brainchild of former Mesa police Chief George Gascón and wouldn't have been successful without the collaboration of the East Valley's police chiefs and Arizona's federal law enforcement leadership, who have all committed to this dynamic project. West Valley police are now considering linking up with the center.
The center has become Arizona's hub for cutting-edge attacks on crime. It's become the go-to team and has received requests for assistance from law enforcement throughout Arizona, including DPS's highway patrol officers. In law enforcement circles, the fusion center is one of the "solutions."
In October, 80 governmental and community leaders from Texas traveled here and were briefed on the fusion center and the East Valley's cooperative regional approach to policing by the center director's, Mesa police Sgt. Lance Heivilin, and Sherry Kiyler, Chandler's police chief and the East Valley Police Chiefs Association vice chairwoman. Texas is currently working aggressively to reorganize its statewide law enforcement effort to better address many of the same crime problems Arizona faces.
According to Mesa officials, not a single member of the Legislature and past or present governor or their staffs has visited the fusion center in its two years of operation. Goddard is the only elected Arizona official to see firsthand how the East Valley fights crime and cuts costs.
I applaud Goddard and Texas officials for looking at the fusion center and how policing can be done better and for less money. Too bad other Arizona government officials can't find their way to Mesa.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at email@example.com.