Public Safety and Law Enforcement
Full video and transcript of panel. Powerpoint presentation provided by Roseanna Ander, original moderator, who was not able to be in attendance; “Public Safety and Law Enforcement”; May 29, 2015.
Bruce Shapiro: Roseanna Ander could not be with us, but she was kind enough to share her PowerPoint and some thoughts with me. I will try to channel her just a little bit or at least channel myself through her slides. But way of introduction, by way of asking what some of the challenges and issues facing law enforcements officers, especially in this region, not only in this region, at the intersection of law enforcement and guns. I'm especially glad to do this because I went to the University of Chicago a long time ago and I always wanted to be able to give a talk at the University of Chicago so there you go.
The name of this session clearly is Pubic Safety and Law Enforcement: Managing Guns and Guns Violence and that's going to be a perspective that we'll deal with. The first question that comes is really what is the role of the police. There was a White House task force on gun violence that President Obama convened. One of the speakers, Jim Warren, of the New York Daily News, put it like this. Is policing a trade or a profession? What qualities are needed to be effective as a multi-tasking law enforcement mental health expert and domestic violence specialist? And certainly the idea of when it comes to guns, the role that law enforcement has taken on in the sort of post-Reagan era that we've all lived in for so many decades a front line social service response role adds to the complexity of the issues we have to sort out.
We heard this earlier in the day, but it's really worth reflecting on. If you look around the world and people say America is such a violent society, actually statistics don't bear that out. And this is of great relevance to any discussion about law enforcement and guns. If you look at in this case car theft, burglary, robbery, sexual assault, our statistics are comparable to other industrial countries. The one place where we stand is in guns. And that's, you know, that's where it is. And you add, you know, gun homicides, suddenly the rest of the world looks the way it looked, you add gun homicides, everyone else has got .1 per 100,000, we're up to 3.1, point 2, point 6, point 1. We're up there at, you know, a hundred times, more than a hundred times, many times more than other countries. And that is what distinguishes the United States, the firearm homicide rate.
The non-firearm homicide rate, very similar. Obviously New Zealand is clearly a safer place to live, but other than that we're all pretty much in the same category. Similarly, if you go, if you look at the nature of violence, and here is just from various cities, again you have non-gun violence being within striking distance of the same level per hundred thousand, in London, New York, L.A., Sau Paulo, Chicago, very, very different cities, very different parts of the world, what distinguishes American cities?
From London, for sure. And even, it turns out, from Sao Paulo, and is in the case the Chicago, is the rate of gun violence, and similarly if you look at cities with higher rates of gun violence, well, more gun seizures in Chicago. When we're talking with law enforcement about gun issues, the question of seizures as a prevention, as an intervention becomes very important to be thinking about. We heard this morning from Gary, this exact formulation, but that gun violence is the combination of guns plus violence, that's the lethal mixture that we saw this morning, greatly increases the rate and the fatality of XX.
And the similar formula, again it's XX for law enforcement, young men, young men plus disagreement, plus impulsivity, you add a gun to the equation and suddenly there's a dead body. This again goes to what we've been hearing all day, that if your measure is lethality, what makes a difference is the presence of a gun as a statistical matter.
So those are a few issues that frame this, and this is a regional workshop so it's especially good, I'm just going to move over here now, to have Sheriff Dupnik and Chief Vilaseñor of the Tucson Police Department here. I’m going to again do quick introductions for the videotape, but the full bio is in your packet. Clarence Dupnik is Sheriff of Pema County. We were just reflecting on a decades old case that involved a trip up to New Haven, Connecticut that he worked on, a really famous murder case from ages ago in Tucson.
He joined the Tucson Police Department in 1958, so really many, many I was going to say the year I was born, from another era of law enforcement but actually straddling several eras of law enforcement I would say, and has served as the sheriff of Pema County, Arizona, which is an elected position, since he was appointed in February 1980 and since been reelected nine times, which in itself is an amazing achievement.
Those of us who are not from this part of the world first got to know him, I think, in the Tucson shootings involving Congresswoman Giffords. And to my immediate right, reflecting no political statement whatsoever, is Chief Roberto Vilasenor, Chief of the Tucson Police Department. He was born and raised in Tucson. I sense a common theme here. Did you ever get in trouble with this man as a child?
Roberto Villaseñor: No.
BS: Sheriff Dupnik joined the Tucson Police Department in 1980, holding many different assignments and working his way up to the ranks until being appointed chief of police in 2009. And he's nationally recognized as one of the great innovators in law enforcement at the community at a time when the country as a whole is debating very much what the right role of police and policing is. I think you bring a lot to this discussion.
Sheriff, I think I'm going to ask, I'm going to start with you. You became nationally known for your criticism of the gun lobby after the Tucson shootings. What led you to step out in that particular way, and you know, how did you see that as consistent with your law enforcement role? And what if anything has been the consequence for you?
Clarence Dupnik: Is the time for me to get up and do my 14 minutes?
BS: You can. Actually, yes. Actually I completely forgot that that was the structure we were going to do. Yes, get up and do your 14 minutes. My apologies. Yes. This is what happens when one of your speakers gets in a car accident.
CD: I don't have a microphone.
BS: You're being miked here. It's fine.
CD: My staff tells me I've never seen a microphone that I didn't fall in love with. As you've heard from our moderator and director I said some things about guns and the Gabby Giffords shooting which you're probably all familiar with. If you're not, we're going to have a hard time communicating on this particular issue. But before I get to the Giffords issue, I'd like to talk a little bit about things generally. I have a reputation for being very opinionated and I don’t mind being asked very complex and difficult questions. I may not answer them but I will try.
I always had tremendous respect for the press, and I use the word press kind of broadly. When I grew up there wasn't any TV. Very little radio news. So it was primarily newspapers and things were much different then than they are now. About the time I became a sergeant, which was in 1962, I'm sure none of you were born then, I've been dealing with the press. I've been dealing with the press. So I have a lot of experience on that subject and a lot of opinions, and I don't mind being asked questions. I have always had tremendous admiration for the press. Later on you're going to hear me say some really bad things about the media, and I'm talking primarily about cable TV and what they've done to this country.
But I've had tremendous admiration for you all because if it weren't for you guys, there wouldn't really be a government watchdog, and it's sad to say that a declining thing in our country, especially in some of those smaller cities like ours, we have about a million people in Tucson, and we used to have two newspapers, now we're down to one. And we have very few reporters that have any time at all to go out and do an investigation, any investigative reporting at all. It just doesn't happen and it's sad.
And I think the way government functions now, you're seeing the results of not having good newspaper reporters and papers. In my opinion the cable TV has fractured out society, our government, and different organizations, different components of government to the point where there doesn't seem to be a solution because we have such a broad interpretation by the Supreme Court of free speech, and using that word free speech it has become not speech so much, it has become the amount of speech you can by. But that I don't think was ever intended by the constitution to be an issue. But now things are happening at government levels that we don't know about because people that use millions and billions of dollars to make certain decisions happen in our government aren't even identified, we don’t know who they are.
If we really had a lot of press reporters and investigative reporters, we could do a much better job, and the reason I bring that up is, you know, we sit here and we talk about different proposals for gun control. The fact of the matter is, none of these proposals have much chance of seeing the light of day and even they did, it wouldn't make much difference because our society is totally populated by guns. And we are powerless to do much about it. I don't think you'll find any police officer that drives in a car out in patrol in a difficult area that believes we shouldn't control guns. I don't think you'll find that.
You'll find loud mouths and the party that represents the right that will disagree and say the only way you can really protect yourself is if you're armed. Well, it was a few years ago that there were four police officers, I forget, it was a Midwestern city and I think it was in Ohio, eating breakfast in uniform, they all had guns, and all four were shot and killed, without the ability to get their guns and do anything about it. And almost, not almost, I have a tendency to paint with a very large brush, so I plead guilty when you said all, you shouldn't have said that about everybody, but I don't do it intentionally. You're supposed to laugh, Chief.
But in most cases where police officers are killed by gunfire, they all had guns and they still got killed on a routine traffic stop. Where you can't predict. Answering a domestic violence call. So guns are a very complicated issue, but it troubles me greatly to see that we are unable to do anything about it. Anybody want to argue with that?
We can't. And why can't we? Well, you all know the answer to that question.
Audience member: NRA?
CD: It's because of money. Simply put. It's because of money. And as long as we have people serving in government who really put personal issues like getting elected first over what's best for this country, you know, 80 percent of the people believe there should be checks on people who attempt to buy guns, yet do 80 percent of the people have enough influence to do something about it, or is it money that keeps them from doing that? Well, where does the money come from?
Well, when it comes to politicians like me, it comes from the NRA. But where does the NRA get their money? And that's a thing I think journalists ought to really think about and see what they might be able to do. Because there's no doubt in my mind that it's the gun manufacturers. And they're the one that profit from all this, and as long as we're unable to do something about that, I think we're stuck with the problem. We can piecemeal this issue and that issue, and yeah, we need to do more here and there, we're only trying to do the little things that really don't have significant impact.
A good case is the one he talked about with Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson a few years ago. Six people dead. And 13 others in the hospital. I'd like to just point out a couple of things that really are not part of my talk today. But I was driving home from a conference in California on the Saturday morning that that occurred. Around 10:00 o'clock. And someone was calling me on my cellphone and I was very busy trying to get as much information as I could. I had very little. And CNN got a hold of me in my car, and started to ask me some questions and started talking about the assassination of Gabriel Giffords.
Her husband, who was in Texas at the time, Houston, I think, was getting on an airplane at the time that this happened because he had been told, and when he got on the airplane he thought she had been assassinated. Her father, who was a good friend of mine, was two hours away from the hospital when he heard that and for the next two hours he thought his daughter was dead. And I had to interrupt the, I was on live TV and I had to interrupt the reporter to tell her that that was not the case, and there was a dead silence. And finally she said, well, we have information from a good source that she's dead. And I said, well, I just hung up the phone with a doctor that's outside the operating room with one of our deputies and she tells me that she's still alive, and there was dead silence. She didn't know what to say.
And there's such competition, especially with the electronic media, that they feel compelled to be the first to report anything. Big story, congresswoman shot and murdered on the street, while she's just out doing her job. But she wasn't. And from my point of view, that rush to judgment is one of the things that causes people like me a great deal of grief.
A few months ago I was, I think it was last August if I'm not mistaken, I was in Austin, Texas doing an event, and I got a call from someone that had interviewed me several times before with MSNBC. And he was calling about Ferguson and he wanted to know if I would go on his radio show and talk about Ferguson. I said, Chris, I'm not going to do it because you'll get very angry with what I'm going to say.
And he said, well, what are you talking about? These people are not adverse to criticism. What are you talking about? I said, well, right now you only have information that you're putting out to the whole universe that we don't really know is true or not. In my opinion we ought to be waiting till we find out the facts until we start telling everybody what happened or didn't happen. Well, needless to say this went on for several days and by now the entire universe had been misinformed to the point where they literally hated all the cops in Ferguson. Literally hated them.
Granted, the public has a right to know, and I'm one of the first that will defend that position. I believe in it. We have a policy, as does the chief of police, have a similar policy, that we want to release as much information as we can to the public immediately. We do that because we think we have a responsibility to do that. But we also have a responsibility to make sure that the information we're releasing is accurate. And we do a pretty good job of that. But sometimes people in the media don't. And unfortunately that's not good. But conversely you take an incident like happened in New York City where this man black man was basically strangled to death by the cops, and if you saw the tape, it was pathetic to see that cops would behave in that fashion. They literally murdered this poor guy for basically no good reason. There's four or five of them standing around when this happened. And that's said.
But on the other hand, we don't need to paint cops with a broad brush either. Because in my experience, which has been, I'm in my 57th year, cops perform, generally speaking, pretty well. Not all the time. We have our bad apples that we take care of. But by and large these people that are out on the streets trying to save your life and everyone else's life, deserve a little better respect than I think is being shown.
Right now the media, and I'm talking primarily about television, cable television, has convinced most of this country that cops need more supervision, that they need more training, they need more oversight, they need, they're bad, they don't know what they're doing and they do really bad things to people. That's not true. It's not true. Once in a while we do. But I think in most organizations, at least in the two that I know of very well, we don't. We're the first to get upset when we know something bad has happened in our organization and we take steps immediately to do something about that.
One of the things that I don't think people understand and I think the press, the media is kind of responsible for that, is, you take the last case in Baltimore. What people don't understand is that a lot of what cops do is very violent. There's a war out there. You go into the area that they're talking about in Baltimore and it's a war zone, it's a war zone. You're smiling, I think. You'll get some questions, right. And people don't understand that. They talk about all this militarization that we do, and let me tell you that in Tucson, Arizona; Tucson, Arizona is the gateway for narcotics to the entire country.
And the narcotics trafficking business is very violent, very violent. That's where militarization comes into play. When I was a young cop, we didn't have SWAT teams, they weren't invented yet, because we didn't need them. But society has changed. Society has changed for the worse, when it comes to the issue of violence.
We started out with those, what do we call those units? TAC units. And we started to say we have to deal with the specialized cops who understand, who are trained and equipped to deal with these people that are very violent. And the violence just kept mushrooming to the point where we're saying these officers aren't equipped to deal with these people. Almost always when we're serving a search warrant, which is on a regular basis in our town, weapons are involved on the part of the suspects. One is because they're afraid of each other. And two, they don't want to deal with us if they can help it. So we just send a cop to knock on the door and say, sir, I have a search warrant? You got to understand that that's a war zone too in itself. So we have undertaken what we can and what we do to equip and train and supervise and manage our SWAT teams, which are basically anti-violent teams, to go and do what they can, not only to protect themselves but to protect the suspects that they're dealing with and especially the people in the surrounding area. If we didn't do that, all hell would break lose, and it's broken loose enough as it is. And when you hear Mr. Shapiro talk about the guns around the rest of the country and our own country compared, it's pathetic, it's sad. We need to do something. We're not going to change this situation overnight, no matter what we do. We're not going to change it overnight. The same is true with capital punishment. We're the only civilized country that still uses capital punishment, which makes no sense to me.
BS: Sheriff, I think maybe this image of an escalating arms race and armaments race is a hold, a good place to call time for now, and then we can kind of fly the plane again once the chief gets his moment in the sun.
RV: I was enjoying his sun. Okay, well first off, I am a Republican. He likes to jab at that once
in a while. In reality I don't differ much from the sheriff's perspectives. And I think that's part of the problem is that we have so polarized this whole discussion that we don’t let sanity have a foothold anywhere. There's no one who allows the middle road approach, you're either here or you're here. And we're never going to get anything accomplished until we bring things a little bit closer to the middle, and that's really not popular with either party and either party maintains their power by degrading the other party.
But let's talk about gun violence and guns and what we're doing in law enforcement to deal with that. What we're trying to use is the technology that is available to us in the legislation that has been passed to allow us to combat violence and gun violence that's out there. There's a program called NIBIN, which is the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network, and it's XX APF, and what it basically is, it's XX analysis of firearms and shell cases, and it's providing tremendous amounts of information to help us combat gun violence.
We have assigned some full time people to that process, and what our goal with that is to take all these casings that we find, because the sheriff is right, we have shootings every night in Tucson and we go out there and we collect all those shell casings that we find on the road. We confiscate weapons when we arrest people, when we go out to scenes of crime. We take those guns and we enter information from them, we examine them, we take microscopic photos of the markings on the casings of the hammers and the firing pins of the weapons and each one has its own unique signature, the same as your fingerprint.
And we're able to tie those pieces of information together and then try and go back and match them up. But here's where the problem is and here's where the gun lobbies really prevent a lot of success. There is no mechanism to track weapons, the sale, the transfer or the purchase of weapons. And any time you bring that up, the argument that comes up immediately is you're trying to take our guns away. I never heard anyone say we're trying to take guns away. I heard someone say that we register when you drive a car, we take your name and your license and your address and your information when you have a drivers license, these are things that we're just trying to make sure we know what happens if something happens and we have to scrape someone off the roadway, or someone gets shot, we sure would like to know who used the weapon, what weapon was used, maybe we could trace it back and we have a suspect to look at.
We're not talking about taking away guns, but the NRA has gotten so good, and I don't have a problem per se with the NRA, I have a problem with the politics that they have espoused to and evolved to over time. When I was younger I used to be a member of the NRA. It talked about, you know, I own guns. I'm not a gun nut. I don’t go out and buy the new gun every time, but I own a few weapons, I own hunting weapons, I don’t have a fear of weapons, I don't have a problem with weapons. I differ a little bit from the sheriff but I think that people want to defend themselves and have a weapon to do so, they should have a right to do so.
I agree with him that it's not always going to help you. In fact, if I remember correctly, wasn’t there an individual at the Gabbie Giffords shooting who was armed inside the store and never came out and used the weapon, was not able to do anything with that weapon, and he'd gone through CCW training. Just because you have the weapon, it's not going to make you safe. And so let's not fall prey to that illusion that gets put out there, if everyone has guns, then no one has guns.
I've got the slide up here and I'm kind of taken off my track here, about the difference in gun violence and the rates was alarming. You know, the United 3.1. You're hearing about all the police response and the militarization of police and the armament of police. That's a real good argument why. You don't have those other issues of so many weapons out there in other countries that we do here in the United States, and when we get out there, if everyone has a gun, it makes our jobs very difficult and very complicated.
But back to what I was talking about. We're not talking about taking gun away, we're talking about kind of keeping track of who buys them, who sells them, who transfers them. If they get used in a crime we can trace it back and ask, hey, is this still your gun? Oh, it's not, who'd you sell it to? And start a backtrack to find out who's involved with that weapon. That's not going overboard. That's not being excessive, that's not so much of a Big Brother trying to take your guns and take everything away. It's common sense reform that will allow us to hopefully combat the violence and the gun violence problem.
But we're met with hysterics and propaganda to prevent that, and I'm not sure really what that motivation is. Because if I have to go buy a gun and I'm buying it legally, I don't care if I fill out a form. Who cares. I go buy a lot of things, I fill out forms. I've got cops that get so paranoid about, well, don't put down your license, don’t put down your home number, there are services out there now, every time I order a pizza you can get my phone number [laughter] off of these public services out there, and I bet most of the media outlets that are represented here have subscriptions to those public services.
So this thing about sealed records, and my records are sealed, mainly because it's fun when I apply for credit and they say, who are you, you have no record of existing, and I say yeah, I know. But if you subscribe to this service, you can get all this information on anyone you want in the world. We are that type of society. So filling out a form to a buy a gun, that's not a big issue for me. It's a big issue for others, I guess, but the fact of the matter is, if you want to own a weapon, I think you have to compromise on some of the regulations that should be required for you to own that weapon in case, lets' say you get broken into and that gun gets stolen. You reported to us, I want to know. So if that gun gets used in a crime, I don't come back and accuse you, at least I know you're clear of it. That's one that I don't have to follow. Or if you sold it to someone, at least I could start following that gun and maybe develop some suspect information that's usable for the investigation of our cases. So we have put a lot of time and investment and resources into this forensic analysis of weapons and shell casings to help try and identify the weapons that are out there and being used in crimes.
We've been very successful. In fact, in Tucson we're outpacing the Phoenix area in terms of the use NIVID and investigation of firearm forensics. Another big area that we're putting in a lot of effort down in Tucson and we had some real successes here at the state legislation, the sheriff mentioned this and they were obviously the individual who was involved in the Tucson shootings had mental problems. And for law enforcement mental health issues are becoming an increasingly burdensome, complex issue, and I would say about 20 percent of the calls we go to can usually have a nexus to someone who's having mental health issues.
The sheriff was innovative in the nation and he started something called a MISS Unit which we saw the success of and we jumped on board with it. And it's a mental health stability team. I give him credit for this, although we try and take credit now. Because they had the foresight of saying, you know what, we can't keep going out there and dealing with these mentally ill people in the way that we're doing it because they're not going to be charged, if we arrest them they're going to be released as soon as they find that they don't have the mental capacity to stand trial or to do anything, and to put them in jail is not going to be the answer, and you're not criminally culpable if they don't have the mental state to develop criminal intent. So they get released. And it's a revolving door. They go back out, they cause a problem, we arrest them, put them in jail, they get back out, blah blah blah blah blah. So he said, hey, why don't we go out and try and connect these people to resources that maybe can help them, you know, resolve those issues. Why don't we be proactive? When we know someone is supposed to attend monthly meetings or weekly meetings with a counselor to help maintain control of their mental health issue, and they're not doing so, why don't we go out there, work with the counselors and say, hey, I've got this client, he hasn't come in the past two meetings. We'll go out there and visit him, and we'll say, hey, how you doing? Have you been taking your medications? No? You ran out of money? Don't have to do that? You know there's access, there's healthcare issues that can help provide that. We can connect you with a counselor who can maybe help you do that.
You'll never measure the success of that, but I guarantee you we have saved lives through the use of this program, because we have gotten people back into the system where they get the healthcare they need and the mental healthcare they need and the assistance that they need to prevent a tragedy like we've had so many times across this country.
One of the issues in relation back to gun violence, is that if you ever get committed, and I think even if you voluntarily commit yourself for psychiatric care, you become a prohibitive possessor. And there's 18,000 such prohibitive possessors in Arizona alone, who have mental health history that prevents them from owning a firearm. But guess what? Up until this last year we weren't allowed to find out who they were. So cops would go to these calls, be dealing with someone who's a prohibitive possessor because of mental health issues and they have no idea that that's the situation they're dealing with. So we were able to pass legislation which allowed us access to that information which then allows us to deal much more holistically with that problem either to get them help or just to prevent our cops from being hurt or to realize you're getting this call about, hey, this person's calling, they're threatening me and they're saying that I'm going to meet mine and all that stuff.
You can take it serious now because they have a previous history and they're a prohibitive possessor and we actually had to give them their gun back because there was no criminal charges against them. We were giving guns back to prohibitive possessors before we enacted this legislation that helps us identify who they are. So there's a lot of work that needs to be done. And I think that if would try and education that it's a moderate approach to dealing with this as opposed to the propaganda that's spread out there that we're trying to take guns away. We're not trying to take guns away. I firmly believe in the constitutional right to own weapons.
And I just believe that with that responsibility, with that right, excuse me, with that right there comes responsibilities that are not outlandish and that if we could just get people to understand the common sense basis for some of those regulations, then that would be helpful in making us a safer society.
I do want to touch on some of what the sheriff brought up about the current perception of law enforcement and the militarization, and I agree with him. This issue that we're facing in law enforcement right now is a predominantly manufactured image by the media.
There are cases, there 18,000, that’s a similar number, I just recognized that. There's 18,000 prohibited mental health possessors in Arizona. There are 18,000 law enforcement agencies across the United States. I don’t believe there's a correlation. Nine hundred thousand cops across the nation. Responding to probably 40, 50 million events a year, and you have to look, the media spends time looking across the country for that one event that's going to cause controversy and that’s what gets splashed in a wide brush across all of us. And I resent it. I understand it but I resent it. And I don't think it's just about law enforcement. I think people are sick and tired of government, and ineffective government, and we are probably the most visible arm of government out there.
We're out there taking away liberties, we're in uniforms, we have guns, we often get in confrontations, we're easy to hate if you have a bone to pick with government. So it was ripe for the picking And yeah, some of the things that you've seen across there, they're despicable, the one in South Carolina, the cop that shot that guy running away from him in the back, I am so happy that he got charged with murder.
But some of the other ones, I can tell you I've been in situations, it's difficult to measure it after the fact and the reaction, cops are humans, they get caught up in emotional, high stress, high strung situations, that we try and provide them training to prevent problems.
But there's two sides to this coin And I'm not, please, I don't want anyone to leave here today and say, well, Chief Vilaseñor was justifying what those cops did and so forth and so forth I am not. Because someone has to take the higher road and that should always be the police officer. But police officers are human, remember, let's go back to that, and they make mistakes once in a while. But nothing has ever been said if Michael Walker had just gotten up out of the street when the officer told him to, that maybe that wouldn't have happened. If Eric Garner had, when he was told you're under arrest, turned around and be cuffed, that wouldn't have happened.
But you know what's fighting them and what's driving them is centuries of subjugation and enslavement and historical cultural problems that the police have often played a part in. So we all have to understand this. This is much greater than the issue that's being presented out there. But the issue that's being presented makes good TV, and now that we have these things out there and everyone has them, boy, we make good TV. That's why I'm trying to put cameras on my officers, because I want you to see the whole thing. Because all that the media is showing is the little section that looks controversial. You don't see the build up. But even there I'm telling you now, body-borne cameras are not going to be the answer to everything because they're not going to capture everything and they only capture one perspective and it's 2D, not 3D, and it doesn't catch the buildup. And of course, you know, you'll have those situations where an officer with a body-worn camera won't be able to activate it quick enough and he won't capture the shooting and then you'll be accused of hiding something. So there's a lot of issues going on right now, but the violence in our society is off the charts, and it's not cops that are causing the violence. It's the criminal element out there that are causing the violence. It's the mentally ill that are causing the violence, it’s the emotionally distraught who have availability of a gun when they get upset and pissed off at their significant other and that gun is right there. We need to bring some modicum of common sense, middle of the road approaches that are not designed to take away our freedoms or liberties but are designed to help us keep a little bit when things go wrong and find a resolution and conduct an investigation to determine why they went wrong or who's responsible. Is that my few minutes?
BS: That's good, and I think there's one significant takeaway for me from both of you, is the idea of gun saturation as a driver both of fearful and reactive responses at times on the part of police officers, hyper vigilant responses if you will, and also as a driver of militarization of policing. I think that, the idea of kind of an arms race because of gun saturation is an interesting takeaway to think about.
Let me ask you guys one question, to both of you, and then we'll just throw it open to the room for a little while. Since we are here doing a southwest regional workshop and we're in the land of Fast and Furious, it occurs to me that I ought to ask you something about undercover gun purchasing. Both of you, this is a very controversial topic in law enforcement, in policing. Do you think that undercover gun purchases is an effective tactic for locating and driving down traffickers, or do you think that the risks outweigh the effectiveness? What do you guys think of this? Sheriff?
CD: I'm not really sure I understand the question.
BS: Undercover gun purchases? Good idea or bad idea?
CD: You're talking about straw purchases?
BS: No, by cops, by law enforcement.
CD: For what purpose?
BS: To identify traffickers and identify the passage of guns to criminal elements?
CD: I think it's a bad idea.
BS: Why so?
CD: Because it caters to a certain mindset out there and makes it worse.
RV: I disagree. I think it's one of the tools in the tool belt that police can use to determine who is trafficking weapons and who is responsible for that. I think where Fast and Furious went wrong, an this is often times a federal mantra, they always want to go for the bigger, badder fish And they let things walk that they should never had let walk. And the concept of making some gun purchase was not erroneous. The concept of not following through and arresting those individuals right away, because they want to get back to the source, well, there's always a source. So I think it's a good tactic that can be used, but we never should let weapons walk.
BS: Questions from the room?
Audience member: I have a question. In Tucson, of the arrests that are made, how many of them have weapons involved, guns involved? Do you have a percentage?
RV: I can say for us, I don't have the exact numbers. I can tell you my knowledge of what goes on out there in the street and I read the case reports that come in there. Weapons would probably be involved in at least 20 to 30 percent of our crime that we make arrests for. In crimes that we never find out who's involved, it may even be higher. The prevalence of weapons out there, guns particularly, is what I think the sheriff is talking about and I saw those stats produced up there, it's just off the charts here, and it's easier and easier for people to get weapons.
Audience members: Are they registered or unregistered?
RV: We don't know. Because there's no way to mandate that.
CD: I think he answered the question.
Audience member: At least where I’m from in California, a huge number of guns end up in drive by shootings and gang shootings in general, are stolen, so what kind of responsibility should we put back on people who don’t secure their guns? Do you guy think there should be some?
CD: I didn't hear the question.
BS: Should there be a new enforcement or penalties put on people who don't secure guns. Because when guns are stolen, they're often put into criminal use. How much is an issue gun theft from your…
CD: Well, it's a huge issue, but I'm not sure that there's a reasonable way to secure guns so that they can't be stolen. If you're gonna use guns.
RV: I think that the concern, I understand your logic there, but what concerns me is how far back to you start to take that? Because they'll say, well, it was in my locked house, so I'm going to be a victim because someone broke into my house and I didn't have a safe which I can't afford, but I live in a low socioeconomic area with a lot of crime and I wanted a weapon to try and protect my house when I was in the house.
So then why aren't you as a police department responsible because you didn't prevent that break in? You can keep taking it back further and further. I think that maybe a trigger lock device or something like that, but then you'll have people who rightfully will say, well, if I have my gun in my house for protection and I have a trigger lock on it, it's not going to do me much good when the crisis happens to someone breaking in, so I don’t know where I'd land on that. I don't think that I would support holding victims of crime responsible for the guns that are stolen them.
BS: We heard, related, we heard some discussion this morning about a San Francisco Bay Area ordinance currently in court that is essentially a lock or carry. Either you carry it or secure it. Good idea, bad idea, unenforceable idea?
RV: Same as texting while driving.
BS: I almost got ticketed for that once.
Audience member: I want to follow Bruce's observation. I thought both you made an interesting talk about this, and I'm talking about framing from a national perspective, and I want to back out a little bit, and I hear what you say when the media is casting all cops as bad. But I tell you, there's bad reporters just like there's bad cops, so don't hold us all in the, that's why we're here. But from that perspective that you all feel under siege because of this gun, especially in some communities, where are the voices of officers and chiefs and sheriffs like you in the national debate over guns when we hear the radical right and the radical left, we don't hear a lot from law enforcement saying there's too many guns on the street, we feel under siege. Where is that narrative on the national level?
CD: Well, for one thing, we rarely get asked that question because they know the answer.
Audience member: Fair enough. If we ask, I hope you're ready to answer it this time, I promise you.
RV: I would throw it back similar to what the sheriff said, is that we don't make good TV when we talk like that. So we're not asked to put that perspective out there. The people that you get asked or that you constantly go to are the Joe Arpaio's, the Ray Clarks, the people who make good TV and good controversial are the ones that are always on TV. The ones that speak rational middle of the road stuff, we're boring.
Audience member: So I live in Colorado Springs, I work for a newspaper there, and I've heard from local law enforcement kind of the same thing, that they feel like the public doesn't trust them because things have happened in South Carolina or New York or wherever. So I kind of want to touch on a what you said, Chief, about how you feel that the media kind of makes this perception that everybody kind of, everyone kind of like takes without, at face value without going further, I'm wondering what you think the media should do differently so that people, I mean you still obviously have to cover when there is an issue of a bad cop or a bad police department. But what do you wish the media did differently so that you're not under siege for something that happened across the country.
RV: Wow. Giving me a magic wand here. What I notice every time is when you have a story that comes out that gets viral, immediately you start seeing similar stories because everyone else wants a bit of that viralness and they always went to get the next section, the next segment of something similar, and they start looking for all those things, and I think that if the media would exercise some of what the sheriff was talking about, let's find out the facts before we report things as opposed to let's be first before we report things. And I don’t know if that's doable. Because I understand your environment, I used to be with PIO for our agency a long time ago.
And I understand your pressures and the things that you have to do through and you've got bosses and you're governed by money too. Your networks are out there to make money and get the advertising, get the viewership and get the readership, and all that is driving things. And so until that changes, I'm not sure you ever will change. And we always get criticized, well you guys don't tell us good stories. And I'll tell you, that's a bunch of bull. I put out good stories all the time, they don’t get coverage. But boy, if one of my people messes up, I will have it for five days out there.
BS: Fair enough.
Audience member: Along those same lines, this legislative session there was a bill that they tried to pass that was very controversial about withholding officers' names for 90 days.
BS: Here in Arizona?
Audience member: In Arizona. Do you think there's any merit to protecting officers' names for what they had called a cool down period? What are your thoughts on legislation like that?
RV: I'm the president of the Arizona Chiefs of Police Association. I wrote a letter to the governor opposing that legislation. Because I think that that should be a local jurisdictional issue. If there is threats against an officer's livelihood, credible threats, I will withhold his name, or her name. But if there are no credible threats, making me withhold a name for 60 days is just going to infuriate the public, it's going to make them start to think I'm hiding something when I'm not. And it's really not transparency which we're talking about is so important to build up relationships right now. So we oppose that legislation. The governor vetoed it and largely pointed to the letter that we wrote saying that we as chiefs do not think this is necessary.
BS: Let me ask you both a question and then we'll call it a day. What would be one legal or policy change, the one intervention, that would make the single biggest difference in reducing gun fatalities in your jurisdiction?
CD: Have to give that some thought.
BS: Think for 10 seconds while the chief talks.
RV: Oh, I'm just talking without thinking [laughter]. I think what we talk about is some mechanism to track the sale and transfer and purchase of weapons, and that's what I was talking about earlier. And similar to what we do with motor vehicles and records that track, any time you sell or purchase a car, we track it. We know where it goes, we know who bought it, we know who sold it. That's all I think we need to do with guns. It would really help us to investigate that. Now the problem and the answer that comes to this is, criminals don't follow the rules. So you could set all these rules you want and there's still going to be black market sales. I agree, but there's a lot of sales that go through straw purchase or something, that are sold at gun shows or through Craigslist, or classified ads, that if we required them to be traced, it would still cut about half of the sales that are out there, capture some information for us to follow up on.
CD: If you live in Arizona, and apparently you do, one time I was quoted as saying that Arizona has become the Tombstone of America. You may recall that. Let me take you back to the Giffords case in Tucson. We had 19 people shot seriously, six of them dead. And one of the things that we tried to get the legislature to do was limit the capacity of guns. It seems like a reasonable thing to do. You don’t really need a lot of capacity for sport or hunting. And certainly if you're going to protect yourself, you're probably not going to kill somebody 35 times. But we tried to get that introduced at the legislature. In the Giffords case, the suspect, was caught when he was trying to reload and he was, he had 33 rounds in, and he had several of these clips on him. And when he was trying to reload some brave people came up and jumped on him and stopped him from doing that or there would have been many more killed an injured. The legislature wouldn't even give it a hearing. As a matter of fact, some of the bigwigs in Phoenix said those crybabies down in Tucson ought to have better things to do, and passed a state gun law which we didn't ask for. We got a letter, a resolution, from the state of Kentucky by their legislature offering their condolences and support and so on and so forth. We got the same letter from Nebraska. What did we get in our own state? Tell those crybabies to shut up.
BS: I think that's a very sobering place to end. Thank you, gentlemen, for your thoughts, and frankness especially.