Pinal sheriff's plagiarism still merits investigation - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Pinal sheriff's plagiarism still merits investigation

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Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2008 12:10 am | Updated: 11:20 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

The state agency that licenses peace officers and punishes those who fall from the straight and narrow is slowly eroding its own credibility every day that it completely ignores the plagiarism of Pinal County Sheriff Chris Vasquez.

Vasquez has apologized - sort of - for routinely stealing the exact words and entire speeches of other people to fill monthly newsletters and pretending these thoughts were his own. It's hard to consider a guest column published on these pages May 16 to be a honest apology when Vasquez didn't acknowledge his actions as inherently unethical and finished with the sentiment that as long as he improved someone's life, he had no regrets.

We've got some news for the sheriff. His letters would have been just as meaningful if he had given proper credit to the original authors and contributors, and being honest with your readers is always the right thing to do.

But what really concerns us now is the attitude of Tom Hammarstrom, executive director of Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, or AZPOST. Hammarstrom told the Tribune's David Biscobing that he didn't view Vasquez's rampant and repeated theft of other people's words as worthy of any type of investigation.

"I'm not even sure as to whether or not this situation is serious enough to warrant action," Hammarstrom said.

That's just incredible, since Biscobing also has reported that AZPOST in 2005 denied a certificate to a police cadet who plagiarized essays from someone else to complete a job application.

So a rookie police officer can't be permitted to carry a badge and to protect the public when caught stealing words and concepts. But the state blindly trusts an elected sheriff, who just happens to serve on the AZPOST board, caught doing the same thing?

Perhaps Vasquez can make a case that the specific details of his actions would mitigate any need for punishment. But AZPOST can't possibly know that unless and until it conducts an actual investigation.

Right now, AZPOST simply is protecting a powerful politician and one of its own instead of equitably enforcing the state's rules.

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