Bruised Egos Could Lead To Public Safety Nightmare

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The so-called confidential report from the Gila County Sheriff's Department on a compromised search warrant exposes a rift between area law enforcement agencies that must be addressed.

The bulk of the report centers on whether Gila County Narcotics Enforcement Task Force agents intentionally or accidentally "tipped off" a confidential informant (CI) that his home was being raided by the Payson Police Department as a methamphetamine lab back in October.

The fact that the CI was alerted to the raid is not argued by anyone. The task force agents -- officers on loan to the task force by the sheriff's department and Arizona Department of Public Safety -- suspected it almost immediately and alerted the police department. The CI allegedly admitted that he overheard a phone conversation about the raid.

The Gilbert Police Department, which did an independent review of the investigation, determined how the "tip" occurred, but could not distinguish if it was accidental or intentional.

Town Councilman Robert Henley summed up the problem: "The confidential report is really a symptom of a larger problem ... Our various law enforcement agencies ... are not effectively working together ... This creates an officer safety issue, wastes limited resources and sometimes puts these agencies at cross purposes.

"I think the council needs to meet soon to develop a plan to address the problem and then ensure the plan is implemented through the town manager," Henley said. "The solution will involve personnel from the Payson Police Department, the sheriff's office, the task force and DPS."

The solution also should involve the oversight agencies of these groups, the town council, the county board of supervisors, and possibly a representative from both the governor's and attorney general's offices. Mediation meetings might be the best solution, taking the discussion out of the political, territorial and personal agenda arenas.

As public funds shrink and concerted efforts become critical to combat the ongoing drug problem and terrorism, true partnerships among law enforcement agencies will become more essential.

Payson and Gila County are blessed with men and women who have devoted their lives to service in law enforcement.

We should not let poor communication and bruised egos compromise the tremendous potential of that devotion.

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