State Agency Clears All In Failed Search

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The final report from the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training Board clears all parties of any wrongdoing in the incident of a failed search warrant attempt.

Payson Town Manager Fred Carpenter received the word from AZPOST recently with its findings on the late 2002 case that put the Payson Police Department and the Gila County Narcotics Task Force at odds.

Chief Gordon Gartner and the police department were concerned that information about a search warrant was inadvertently shared by task force agents with one of their informants, who was the subject of the warrant.

"In effect it puts a wrap on the whole issue -- because accusations had gone back and forth -- and now its all cleared up," Carpenter said.

Gartner sent the reports from four earlier investigations of the issue to AZPOST in late May. Tom Hammarstrom, executive director of AZPOST, responded to Gartner.

AZPOST is responsible for certifying the state's law enforcement officers. It is also the agency through which law enforcement officers can have their certification suspended or revoked, Hammarstrom explained.

"We did not find that any certified officer involved with this matter committed a clear violation of AZPOST Rules," Hammarstrom wrote. "... Clearly, the compromised search warrant created real tensions between agencies in the Payson area ... As law enforcement professionals we all understand how important mutually beneficial and supportive inter-agency relationships are to the citizens we serve."

"There is no question relations with the Gila County Narcotics Task Force are damaged. It became a political matter which it should have never been. I hope things will work out, but I don't know. Trust is important in this business and narcotics is a dangerous business. These are violent people," Gartner said.

The AZPOST's executive director's letter outlined several observations, drawn from his review of the four prior investigations of the issue. Among these:

  • The veracity of the informant during each interview must be carefully weighed. In our opinion, his responses appear to be colored, or spun, to accommodate the person asking the questions. In each interview we think the informant desired outcomes that he believed the interviewer could achieve for him if he related his story in a certain way. Therefore, he was motivated not to be completely candid in any of the interviews.
  • Based on many combined years of narcotics investigative experience, it is our opinion that the officers involved may have become too close to their informant, and placed too much trust in him. This is an unhealthy, but not unusual occurrence that in this situation contributed to poor decisions.

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