We cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure. Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest, we have no right to keep him in public life; it matters not how brilliant his capacity. - Theodore Roosevelt
Prescott Police Chief Dan Schatz, who retired from the LAPD after helping restore the agency following the Rampart scandal, gave an interesting presentation at the training conference of the Arizona Gang Investigators Association (AZGIA) in early June in Tempe.
His presentation, "Corruption Within the Gang Units - The Rampart Scandal," was fascinating and provided many lessons learned. The same day in nearby Phoenix, a police corruption scandal closer to home was exposed.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced that 12 people, including three from his own department, were arrested as a result of a drug and human smuggling investigation. Deputy Alfredo Navarrette and detention Officers Marcella Hernandez and Sylvia Najera face felony charges stemming from the investigation. Seven other sheriff's employees are being investigated.
"We have enough violence without having moles in my own organization that put my deputies in danger," Sheriff Arpaio told ABC Channel 15.
Deputy Navarrette admitted passing information about the sheriff's crime prevention operations to his gang puppet masters, according to the report. He has also been implicated in a human trafficking ring that has smuggled illegal immigrants from Arizona to California. Two illegal immigrants were found during the search of Navarrette's home.
Navarrette had once been assigned to the sheriff's elite Human Smuggling Task Force Unit and was cross-trained as a federal immigration agent. At the same time, he was also an active member of a drug smuggling group. He helped launder money and transport drugs. It is alleged that he even installed security cameras in the gang leader's home.
According to court documents, heroin was produced at a ranch in Mexico and 5- to 10-pound loads were brought into the Phoenix area for distribution. Search warrants served in this case led police to seize 10 pounds of heroin, nearly $200,000 in cash, weapons, vehicles and stolen property.
Detention Officer Marcella Hernandez told authorities that she was eight months pregnant with the child of the alleged drug ringleader Francisco Arce-Torres, a member of the Mexican Sinaloa Drug Trafficking Organization (DTO). Hernandez was found with $16,000 cash when she was arrested.
Detention Officer Sylvia Najera was booked on charges of money laundering and controlling a criminal enterprise, according to the ABC Channel 15 report.
In our war against criminal gangs, American law enforcement has prided itself in its ability to gather and put to use sophisticated intelligence networks, the latest scientific technology and expert tactical training in firearms. Powerful and diabolical, criminal organizations have a secret weapon to counter these skills. It's a simple and effective tool that has been used in the past, even to bring down entire nations.
For many years, we have criticized and ridiculed our neighbors in Central and South America for the public corruption their nations have been cursed with. To our doom, we believe the lie that "it can't happen here." This cultural arrogance has now come back to haunt us.
No government or human culture is any more or less susceptible to the corrupting effect of vice, drugs, power, fear or money. Criminal gangs systematically utilize these human weaknesses to sow the seeds of our destruction. What they can't do with guns and terror, they seek to do with seduction.
This is one area that American law enforcement is least prepared for. Strong ethical and moral convictions are our strongest defense against the putrefying effects of corruption. America seemed to have lost its moral compass. In the quest for tolerance of other philosophies and religions, the Christian foundations and moral compass has been tossed away. Church attendance and influence has declined. Studies among university students have shown that cheating on exams is an epidemic. Even video games have handbooks on secret ways to cheat. Americans "experiment" with illegal drugs, wink at traffic laws, and cheat on their income taxes and spouses.
On America's sports fields, a player is admired for "bending" or playing "fast and loose" with the rules. What happened to sportsmanship? Athletes use performance enhancing drugs that may be illegal. And professors in our universities of higher learning teach situational ethics. This is all re-enforced by TV and the media.
Once upon a time, America taught morals and ethics in public schools. From early middle school, civic responsibilities were part of every kid's basic education. I remember that in my academy training these ethical ideals were emphasized and reinforced.
America is ripe for an epidemic of public corruption. Transnational gangs and international drug and human smuggling traffickers have the war chests and government contacts to saturate the system. This is their best weapon.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio summed up the Maricopa County corruption investigation this way, "No one is above the law and apparently no one is beyond the reach of drug trafficking organizations in Mexico." He added, "In every organization, you're going to find some people who do wrong, it's human nature."