I wish to thank the Payson Roundup for this opportunity to respond to Senator Sylvia Allen’s guest column on her sponsored legislation, SB 1083, to create the Arizona Special Missions Unit (SMU).
First, let us review what the bill would do.
It appropriates $1.4 million each year from the Gang and Immigration Intelligence Team Enforcement Mission (GIITEM) fund.
It establishes a “commander” of the unit to be appointed by the governor.
It raises a force of about 300 volunteers.
It compensates volunteers for five days of initial training, five annual days of training and one day per month of drill exercises.
It provides that unit equipment could be secured from the Arizona National Guard.
It directs the unit to deal with criminal activity at the border, to provide disaster relief and other civic services.
Now, here are my concerns:
Today, local law enforcement uses GIITEM dollars to aid their fight against gangs and drug and human trafficking in our communities. The equipment enables them to coordinate their efforts with the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and
federal authorities. Allen’s bill strips those dollars from local law enforcement, making it even more difficult for local officers to fight crime here at home. This is why every county attorney and sheriff (except Pinal County) opposes SB 1083.
Anyone who has served in the military or law enforcement knows how important the chain of command and accountability is to ensuring public safety and mission success. It should concern everyone that the SMU commander and units themselves would not be under the direction of DPS nor under the command of the Arizona National Guard. They are not even held to the same professional standards as a DPS officer or a National Guardsman. They are accountable to no one but themselves and the governor.
This lack of command, control and accountability is unprecedented and unacceptable. If you watch committee hearings on SB 1083, you will hear law enforcement leaders from existing agencies nearly pleading with Senator Allen to not create this unstructured militia.
Another big concern is the inadequate provision for training members of the SMU. Our military, National Guard, DPS and local law enforcement officers receive constant training in everything from law to firearms to drug identification. Most police officers spend a few hours every week at the firing range in order to keep their reaction times and observation skills sharp. This is as it should be.
Unfortunately, Senator Allen provides for just five days of initial training, five days of annual training and one day per month of drill exercises. Unit proponents have clearly stated that they intend to arm themselves with assault rifles and will be authorized to pursue and detain suspected criminals in motor vehicle chases. Senator Allen has included her simple notion for the need of training in the bill but sets the bar so low that it is reckless. Without proper training this militia will end up shooting each other and — who knows — maybe you.
Again, five days of training? So we have an SMU that is expected to fulfill a critical mission, but with a pittance of the training all other law enforcement officers in our state are required to take. How is that good public policy?
Senator Allen is clearly concerned with the threat of border crime and terrorism, as are we all. But if she really wants a safer border, then why did she vote to cut 87 patrol officers from DPS in the Senate budget? Why does her bill take funding away from law enforcement agencies here in Payson and Gila County? Why doesn’t she choose to invest in our existing capabilities and personnel?
A wiser approach would be for the Legislature to pass a budget that funds DPS at the level recommended by Governor Brewer, to ensure the National Guard is properly funded and to reject bills as ill conceived as SB 1083.
Assist me by contacting the Arizona House of Representatives to vote against SB 1083, and should it pass, please tell Governor Brewer to veto it.