Arpaio denies Loop 101 deal
By Ray Stern, Tribune
August 10, 2006
Saying his credibility is at stake, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio strongly denied that anyone from his office made a deal with Scottsdale to get his officers out of Loop 101 photo enforcement violation notices.
Scottsdale police officials are sticking to their story, but said they can’t recall the names of any representatives from the sheriff’s office or at the state Department of Public Safety who were party to a negotiation.
DPS officials, meanwhile, refused to answer questions about whether there was a deal that kept the agency from receiving any violation notices generated from Scottsdale’s freeway photo enforcement program.
“The issue is credibility . . . there was no deal made with Scottsdale or with anyone else,” Arpaio said in a July 28 interview. “They’re never going to come up with any proof we made a deal.”
So far, Arpaio is right about that proof. Last week, Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell and department spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark repeated that as far as they’re concerned, DPS and sheriff ’s office personnel were knowledgeable about the deal. But they couldn’t provide any evidence that connected the agencies to the decision to ignore citation notices. [Cops covering the asses of other cops]
“The whole process was a series of meetings and at some point it was a conversation where the sheriff’s office came into the picture,” Clark said in an interview last week. “There were communications that went on at the meetings. Obviously, some of these were informal meetings, some of them were phone calls. So I don’t know if there are records available.” [And none of these Scottsdale cops who attended these meetings remember the names of the DPS and Maricopa County Sheriff Office who attended these meetings - cops covering up for other cops]
The Tribune reported July 23 that Scottsdale police officials said they made a deal to ignore potential speeding tickets from sheriff’s office and DPS vehicles. Though police are legally allowed to speed in certain situations, the deal allowed officers who may not have been justified in speeding to escape citations or reprimands.
The July article included 16 pictures of emergency vehicles — five from the sheriff’s office and seven from DPS — caught going between 100 mph and 117 mph. Five did not appear to have their emergency lights on. The sheriff’s office and DPS have not replied to a request made in June for documentation of the officers’ actions around the time of the photos.
Police officials in Scottsdale, Mesa and Phoenix said that when patrol cars are caught by photo enforcement, each violation is reviewed to make sure the speed was justified. If the officer can’t justify his or her speed, a citation is issued and the officer may also receive internal discipline.
Scottsdale changed its policy and began sending out the notices to DPS and the sheriff’s office after the Tribune made a public records request for the pictures and data regarding 16 vehicles.
Arpaio, Rodbell, and DPS Director Roger Vanderpool did not return phone calls before publication of the July 23 article.
Vanderpool did not return calls for this article.
Arpaio said that in the week following publication, his office received criticism regarding the issue from across the country and he felt he could no longer keep quiet.
“We don’t make deals,” he said.
SCOTTSDALE VS. SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Arpaio, sheriff’s office Chief Larry Black and Lt. Paul Chagolla maintained in a July 28 phone conference meeting that no one from the sheriff’s office ever discussed any aspect of the Loop 101 speed camera system with anyone from Scottsdale.
That’s not true, Scottsdale police officials said last week. But they offered no evidence.
“We made a policy decision based on conversations and whoever was part of that conversation with the sheriff ’s department, I can’t tell you,” Rodbell said.
Clark and Rodbell said they weren’t in any of the meetings with sheriff ’s office representatives.
Rodbell said he did attend one of the meetings with a DPS official, but did not elaborate.
DPS spokesman Rick Knight said Vanderpool would call the Tribune this week to talk about the issue. He said the agency may have received five notices from Scottsdale between January and April, but could not confirm that. He also said DPS may have agreed with Scottsdale to only receive notices if the DPS vehicle was caught going more than 100 mph, but could not confirm that, either. Vanderpool would be able to answer those questions, he said.
But Vanderpool never called. Instead, Knight later sent two e-mails that made no mention of the arrangement Scottsdale says it had with DPS.
In the months before the freeway program went online, the question of how to handle violation notices of lawenforcement vehicles was raised and discussed in meetings attended by many people, said Pat Dodds, a Scottsdale spokesman. Dodds was a member of two working groups charged with implementing the freeway photo enforcement program.
Dodds said he did not remember hearing a clear answer but later said he believed that law-enforcement agencies would make their own decisions about whether to receive tickets.
One thing is clear: Scottsdale did not send most, if not all, of the notices generated by speeding DPS and sheriff’s office vehicles. In addition to the 16 vehicles caught going 100 mph or more, the system also caught 177 other emergency vehicles from Jan. 22 to the end of June traveling between 76 mph and 99 mph.
The Tribune has a pending request with Scottsdale to review all photos and data of speeding emergency vehicles in the Loop 101 photo enforcement zone between Scottsdale Road and Shea Boulevard.
DPS and the sheriff’s office agreed to review all photo enforcement notices received by Scottsdale now that the city’s policy has changed.
ETHICAL OR LEGAL?
The question of how Scottsdale could legally or ethically justify exempting certain groups from receiving violation notices remains unanswered.
“It wasn’t unethical. It wasn’t immoral. It wasn’t illegal,” Rodbell said about the decision not to ticket those agencies.
However, Scottsdale City Attorney Deborah Robberson was not willing to make the same assertion when asked if the policy had been legal.
“I’m not going to give you my legal advice, because it’s inappropriate,” she said. “To the extent there was an issue, it’s remedied.”
B. Monte Morgan, Scottsdale City Court presiding judge, has been an outspoken opponent of speeding and told the Tribune three years ago that “anyone driving 100 mph in Scottsdale without meritorious justification will be facing jail time.”
Morgan did not return a phone call Wednesday. A court administrator said it was not the role of the court to say whom the police should or should not ticket.
RedFlex Traffic Systems, the private company that runs Scottsdale’s photo enforcement programs, flagged the notices for emergency vehicles and did not record their license plate numbers, as they do for other speeding vehicles.
Asked how RedFlex justified that decision, or whether other cities the company has contracts with have similar arrangements, RedFlex spokesman Jay Heiler said Wednesday he would research the issue and call back. He did not call back by press time.
Jake Jacobsen, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said if the officers photographed were going 20 mph or more over the speed limit, that constitutes criminal speeding.
Jacobsen said he wouldn’t say what Scottsdale did was “bad,” because “I don’t have a horse in this race.”
However, if Scottsdale assumed all lawenforcement vehicles were justified to speed on Loop 101, “that’s quite a leap of faith.”
Contact Ray Stern by email, or phone (480) 970-2336