-There are significant organizational changes occurring in our Sheriff’s Office. My phased plan is designed to improve safety and service for Pinal County families. I’m very pleased and proud of the professionalism of our Deputies, Detention Officers, civilian staff and PCSO leaders during this period of transition and reform.
We have created a new Traffic Team that will consist of a Motorcycle Unit. Through restructuring, we have added two Deputies and a Sergeant to this five person squad. They will improve traffic safety by focusing on accident investigations, targeted traffic enforcement and DUI’s. You can also now go on line to our Sheriff’s Office website to report traffic related incidents.
Pinal County will see our first multi-agency DUI Task Force in the very near future. We are currently planning and inviting all local Police agencies to participate in DUI enforcement. This shall improve traffic safety for our Pinal County families and improves multi-jurisdictional cooperation to address any law enforcement matters.
Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team is another area where local Police agencies join together to pool our limited resources to address threats and criminal activity. Our SWAT team has been dramatically reorganized to achieve higher standards for training and performance. We held our initial meeting of the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Oversight Committee; this committee has been tasked with the responsibility of assessing and identifying equipment and training needs, restoring standards through the development of policy and standard operating procedures and will recommend a permanent SWAT Commander to lead the team.
Eloy Police Capitan Shane Blakeman is the interim SWAT commander and he has already established improved training, discipline and fitness requirements. An independent committee assigned to review PCSO SWAT Policies and Procedures following the tragic death of Casa Grande Police Sergeant Tate Lynch listed numerous deficiencies and made specific recommendations for improvements. The report is clear in terms of our many failings. We shall honor Sgt. Tate Lynch through more than just words - we will honor him by our actions. As your Sheriff, I will ensure our SWAT team is properly trained, fully equipped and has disciplined leaders who are highly qualified. Our citizens and our SWAT team expect, deserve and shall get nothing less.
In any uniformed organization with 700 employees, fair, consistent and timely discipline is essential. I have been working closely with Law Enforcement Chief Steve Henry and Detention Chief Jim Kimble to work through and action dozens of Internal Affairs (IA) investigations that have been backlogged for as long as one and a half years. Many cases have been cleared, some require further investigation and others have been referred to outside Police agencies or even to Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board (AZPOST) for review. I am troubled by some employee violations we have found and the subsequent lack of fairness and timeliness in regards to discipline.
We are overhauling our General Orders, which are the internal rules and policies established to ensure professional standards are observed and maintained in most law enforcement agencies. As you may suspect – our Sheriff’s Office has not has not updated this policy manual in over a decade. My intent is to make internal discipline even handed, consistent and addressed in a reasonable period of time. This is fair to the employee being investigated and also has a legitimate impact on behavior.
Our policy to book Misdemeanor arrests has changed and any law enforcement officer who makes an arrest in Pinal County shall be allowed to book their suspect into our Pinal County Jail. Officers have the discretion to arrest a suspect, yet Pinal County policy was that we book only felony offenders.
More changes and improvements shall be implemented in the coming months. I am honored to serve as your Sheriff and I will be relentless in pursuit of improved service through increased discipline, training and accountability.
Paul R. Babeu, Sheriff
Pinal County, Arizona