Richardson: State needs a top-down review of public safety capability - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Richardson: State needs a top-down review of public safety capability

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Posted: Friday, September 12, 2008 6:42 pm | Updated: 12:05 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

"Remember Mr. Gravely! These people are out there. They exist. They're evil."

KIM HALE

Tempe police commander (Sept. 4)

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Hale was referring to Graham Gravely, who was arrested Aug. 2 in Mexico after an investigation by the Tempe and Mesa police, East Valley Fusion Center, U.S. Marshal's Service and Sonoran State Police after the July 20 kidnapping and rape of an elderly Tempe woman. Gravely has reportedly admitted to the 1998 murder of a Yuma mother of two and a series of yet undisclosed crimes.

Gravely was a one-man crime wave. He escaped detection for years.

As I have pointed out numerous times, Arizona has no statewide criminal information collection and sharing system - like many other states have - to track crime and criminals. Nor does the state have detectives experienced in violent crimes that work unsolved cases such as the murder Gravely has been implicated in.

In 2007, only about half the state's 464 murders and 25 percent of the 1,797 rapes were solved.

Hale's words are a reminder of the career criminals who stalk their prey in silence.

Then there are the organized groups of career criminals who are highly visible and control much of the street crime and support syndicates linked to the Mexican drug cartels.

The Aug. 27 edition of PoliceOne Magazine carries a report by Charles Remsberg headlined "Are more violent clashes ahead with fearless super-gangs?" In the article, veteran gang and criminal intelligence specialist Frank "Paco" Marcell tells how "super-gang" career criminals "don't limit themselves to just one kind of crime. They're involved in anything that's profitable - drugs, car theft, gun running, human smuggling, fraud, home invasions and are quick to act and extremely violent."

Arizona has become ground zero for cartel operations as they spread north. Our state isn't prepared for what's happening or coming. Tucson police estimate 60 percent of the drugs that come into the U.S. pass through Arizona.

On Aug. 28, the International Association of Chiefs of Police issued a statement urging our next president to establish a National Commission of Law Enforcement to conduct a comprehensive review of the criminal justice system and provide the nation with a strategic plan to guide public safety.

Nashville Police Chief Ronald Serpas said of the proposal, "Our nation's homeland security focus must be redirected to America's hometowns and neighborhoods if our children and grandchildren are to enjoy safe communities."

IACP President Ronald Ruecker said, "In the years since 2001, more than 99,000 Americans have been murdered and more than 8 million have been the victims of violent crime." Millions of dollars have been spent on terrorism while funding for policing declines.

Arizona spends millions, $1 million a year in rent alone, plus the costs associated with about 100 experienced officers and crime analysts in the name of terrorism while neglecting essential law enforcement services. The Arizona Counter Terrorism Intelligence Center has proven to be expensive and ineffective.

So what about the governor or attorney general forming an Arizona Commission on Law Enforcement like the one the IACP wants? Arizona desperately needs a critical and comprehensive review of statewide law enforcement services and an anti-crime strategy.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety's decision to charge anything for crime lab services is a sad commentary for the agency that was designed to support local law enforcement.

DNA analysis leads to more arrests than fingerprint checks. It's what led to Gravely's arrest. Mesa police did the lab work for free. The highly successful and respected EV Fusion Center, borne out of necessity after the state's continued inaction, performed the case's investigative research and analysis.

Arizona's statewide law enforcement foundation is built on traffic law enforcement, not general policing.

A statewide strategy involving city, county, state and federal police agencies, along with eliminating duplicative functions, establishing resource and information sharing systems and public-private partnerships, would allow all of Arizona to enter the world of 21st century policing.

Business as usual will only allow the likes of Gravely and organized criminals to continue to grow unchecked.

What is it going to take to bring about change?

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at bill.richardson@cox.net.

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