Kerr Outraged Over Hobbs Veto Of Public Safety Bills

Kerr Outraged Over Hobbs Veto Of Public Safety Bills

By Daniel Stefanski |

An Arizona state lawmaker is expressing outrage over the governor’s decision to veto one of her public safety bills.

On Thursday, Senator Sine Kerr issued a press release to highlight Democrat Governor Katie Hobbs’ “harmful veto of a bill requiring sex offenders convicted of dangerous crimes against children to register on the state’s sex offender website.”

The bill that elicited Kerr’s attention was SB 1583, which added “that a level one sex offender who commits specified sexual offenses is required to register on the internet sex offender website if the offender was sentenced for a dangerous crime against children (DCAC).”

Senator Kerr’s release revealed that there was “loophole in state law, which currently only requires some offenders who have been convicted of sex crimes against children to be listed on the sex offender website if they are considered at high risk of reoffending,” and that “those who are considered least likely to reoffend (level one offenders) may not be required to be listed on this website” – estimated in the thousands by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Hobbs, in her customary veto letter to the Senate President, explained her decision, writing, “State law already requires offenders that are deemed the most dangerous to be published on the Arizona Department of Public Safety Sex Offender Information website. DPS will continue to ensure this information is readily available to the public.”

The governor added that she looks forward “to continuing to work on legislative solutions to keep Arizona families and communities safe.”

Kerr vehemently disagreed with Hobbs’ justification and accused the state’s chief executive of being clueless when it comes to this issue, stating, “The lack of understanding from Governor Hobbs is a serious threat to the safety and wellbeing of all Arizona families with children. My bill would have armed parents, schools, churches and community centers with a digital tool of notification, transparency and awareness in order to prevent these offenders currently not listed on the website from further victimizing our kids. Hobbs’ veto letter, which she erroneously wrote to the wrong Senator, shows she doesn’t have a clue what’s going on with sex offender tracking in our state.”

In her statement, the senator also discussed the safety ramifications of this loophole and bemoaned the partisan nature of this bill, saying, “Right now, if a parent signs their child up for a sports team, and that coach was convicted of committing a dangerous sex crime against a minor but is not considered likely to reoffend, that coach may not be listed on the website. When the parent searches the site and doesn’t see the coach’s name pop up, they are given a false sense of security that their child will be in good hands. Protecting our children from sexual victimization should not be a partisan issue, yet all Democrats in the Legislature voted against the bill and our Democrat Governor vetoed it.”

Senator Kerr vowed to bring back this effort next session “so that we stop protecting sex offenders and start protecting children.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

Guidelines Delayed For Handling Fentanyl Evidence In Arizona’s Courts

Guidelines Delayed For Handling Fentanyl Evidence In Arizona’s Courts

By Terri Jo Neff |

When video went viral this month of a Florida police officer needing three doses of Narcan after losing consciousness when exposed to fentanyl during a routine traffic stop, it renewed attention to the dangers the deadly drug poses to public safety and healthcare workers.

But protocols for handling fentanyl and other potentially toxic evidence are months from approved within Arizona’s judicial system, even though there are currently hundreds of ongoing fentanyl-related criminal cases in the state’s courts.

Court administrators and presiding judges across Arizona have expressed concerns about safety protocols since 2020 when the number of prosecutions involving the drug started to rise. But it was not until this June that Chief Justice Robert Brutinel of the Arizona Supreme Court established a taskforce to create guidelines for handling fentanyl and other toxic evidence in courthouses.

The Fentanyl and Toxic Evidence Taskforce was given a Dec. 31 deadline to file its report and recommendations. However, the 11 members of the taskforce notified Brutinel in November that they need more time.

As a result, the report’s deadline has been extended to March 31, 2023.

Guidelines are necessary, Brutinel noted in June, due to the “significant rise” of overdoses associated with fentanyl, as well as the corresponding rise in the number of cases in which fentanyl is part of the evidence against a defendant.

“Accordingly, there is the potential risk that the drug evidence and other toxic evidence in these cases will need to be handled in the courthouse,” the chief justice noted, adding that protocols for dealing with fentanyl exposure and for handling the drug is already developed for some industries. “There has been little guidance, however, issued for court personnel who may have to handle packaged evidence of fentanyl, carfentanil, their analogs, or other toxic evidence.”

The chief justice ordered the 2019 National Judicial Opioid Task Force guidelines be used by the taskforce as a reference to address several issues:

  • Whether such drugs should be inspected and approved by designated court personnel before being allowed into a courthouse
  • Whether these packaged drugs must always remain in the possession of law enforcement personnel, except by approval of the court
  • Whether the drugs should ever be handled by court personnel or others during a judicial proceeding, such as attorneys, witnesses, court clerks, and jurors
  • Whether such drugs should remain in a courthouse or court-related facility during non-business hours
  • What safety policies should be established for the handling of fentanyl evidence
  • Whether courthouse personnel should be trained to address possible exposure to fentanyl and other toxic evidence and to properly identify opioid toxicity
  • Whether Naloxone (Narcan) should be kept in courthouses and other court-related facilities for emergencies and whether any court personnel should be trained in its administration.

One consideration for the taskforce is the need to balance safety concerns for court personnel and members of the public who may be exposed to the drugs during a judicial proceeding against the rights of defendants or even a victim in judicial proceedings to due process and a fair trial, Brutinel noted.

Terri Jo Neff is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or send her news tips here.

Phoenix Police May Not Respond to Certain Calls Due to Officer Shortage

Phoenix Police May Not Respond to Certain Calls Due to Officer Shortage

By Corinne Murdock |

Phoenix Police Department (PPD) leadership informed city council that they may have to stop responding to certain 911 calls due to their shortage of police officers. PPD Chief Jeri Williams shared with the Public Safety and Justice Subcommittee at the start of this month that they haven’t made such a policy official yet, but may have to in order to offset the workload created by 370 vacancies. 

They had 27 recruits going through academy and 31 officers-in-training. PPD has 2,755 total officers. The fifth-largest city in the nation had over 1.6 million people according to the 2020 census — approximately 17 officers per 10,000 residents. 

The proposal was based on a study from Arizona State University (ASU). The university identified eleven call types: intrusion alarms, assisting fire departments with unruly patients, drug overdoses, loose animals, public marijuana smoking, civil matter stand-bys, abandoned vehicles, found property, minor vehicle crashes without injuries, illegal parking, and noise complaints. Williams suggested that the last six call types could be mitigated by civilian members or assistants and not PPD, and that public marijuna smoking calls were nullified with the legalization of marijuana. 

Williams suggested that eliminating police response to intrusion or false alarms, fire department assistance and/or check welfare calls, drug overdoses, and loose animals wouldn’t be good for public safety. PPD recorded 60,000 welfare calls and 552 drug overdose calls. 

Civil matter stand-by calls have to do with incidents like exchanges of children, roommate relationships, and merchant or customer relations. Williams reported that PPD received about 14,000 of civil matter stand-by calls annually, 10,000 abandoned vehicle calls, 3,200 found property calls, 26,000 minor vehicle accidents without injury calls, 10,000 minor vehicle hit-and-run, 6,200 illegal parking calls, and 14,000 noise complaint calls. 

Overall, Williams reported that PPD received 2 million calls in 2020 with 660,000 of those dispatched, and 1.8 million calls in 2021 with about 614,000 of those dispatched. 

“This is just preliminary information that we’re going through. We didn’t want you all or members of the public to be surprised by the types of calls we’re looking at. We’ve made no decisions on these whatsoever, we’re really just trying to introduce the topic and idea,” explained Williams. 

The second adjustment was PPD’s new “deferred patrol response” program where officers come into the station and work overtime by assisting with calls, taking reports, and handling paperwork. 

The third adjustment was changes to PPD’s dispatch protocol concerned changes to dispatch protocols.

In all, Williams touched on six different improvement efforts: in addition to call type reduction, deferred patrol response, and dispatch protocol changes, PPD has undertaken programs implementing civilianization, body worn cameras for all officers, and specialty back to patrol. PPD also introduced efforts to increase officer retention and morale, such as raises.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.