To the Editor,
Regarding Tim Vanderpool's "Have Gun, Will Travel" (July 23): I have worked for the Tucson Police Department and the Pima County Sheriff's Department, and now run the small Sahuarita Police Department. I read The Weekly because it's free, and sometimes covers issues not generally dealt with by the dailies, and often with a necessary critical eye that isn't present with mainstream media. I've seen criticism of Weekly articles both for inaccuracies and for presenting only a slanted view of the story. I figured some of the criticism may be valid, and some just sour grapes--until I read Vanderpool's article (a term I use loosely, since "article" implies some thought and research) on off-duty work performed by the Tucson Police Department (as well as every other law-enforcement agency in the area).
Vanderpool's main premise is that cops working for private employers are somehow tainted and will do anything they are told to do. Tim, off-duty or on-duty, cops only enforce violations of laws, period. If the street bums on Fourth Avenue have been cited, it's because they've violated legally adopted ordinances, not because the Fourth Avenue Merchants Association willed it. I've worked off-duty for school districts, and have had to inform them that we are not there to enforce school rules. Violating the dress code is not something we deal with, but assaulting a teacher is.
If businesses, schools, etc. were not willing to pay for off-duty cops, on-duty officers would be even more pressed to handle crimes and calls for service. Because off-duty cops work SunTran centers, on-duty cops don't have to go there dozens of times daily. Without off-duty cops, some schools could not function safely. If cops didn't work off-duty, there would be no UA football or basketball games, no Cinco De Mayo celebration, no Juneteenth celebration, no Mariachi Festival, no El Tour, no Tucson Marathon, no Downtown Saturday Night, etc.
Off-duty employment makes these things possible because private security would be inadequate, and there are nowhere near enough on-duty cops to handle them. Did you even consider that when you were writing this "article," Tim?
As to using police vehicles in some of these jobs, it's done with the understanding that the off-duty officers will transport their own arrestees rather than taking up needed on-duty cops, or in the interest of public safety such as traffic control for big events. You have a problem with saving lives, Tim?
But of course you quoted some experts. James Fyfe, supposedly a nationally known expert on police matters, whom I've never heard of, and whose claim to fame is a 16-year stint with the New York City Police Department., an agency so wracked with police corruption over the past 20 to 30 years that questionable off-duty work seems hardly noticeable.
Truthfully, I've seen some abuses here, but they're generally attributable to individual greed, poor policy, or poor supervision, not a corrupt system.
And there's Paul Gattone's comments: "When somebody's paying you $20 an hour, who are you going to help first?" Gee Paul, I've left off-duty jobs to help on-duty officers with a problem, helped citizens while working off-duty with problems that had nothing to do with my off-duty job, and I've been at events where off-duty employers were told the event was endangering public safety or welfare and would have to be toned down or shut down.
Who do you think my friend Ernie Calvillo, a Sheriff's deputy, was working for when he was shot and killed several years ago because he left an off-duty job guarding movie equipment to try to break up a family fight? He obviously felt that he was a cop first and foremost. Police generally act appropriately, no matter who pays them.
Of course if Paul Gattone came home and found his family had been assaulted by street thugs who were already in custody, he would undoubtedly talk to the arrestees first to see if they'd been mistreated even slightly by police before checking on his family. Hardly an unbiased resource.
And Vanderpool must not even proof-read his work. Gene Gonzales is a Sergeant making $70,000 a year, the same as Vanderpool says a Captain makes. What a nicely socialist department that pays everyone $70,000 a year. Tim, don't get in the habit of slapping yourself every time you write something stupid. You'll be hospitalized in no time.
If Vanderpool, Gattone, Mayor Miller, or anyone else has a plan that can replace off-duty cops but still keep schools, businesses, streets, special events, and athletic contests safe without a huge (and I mean huge) bill to the taxpayers, come forward. Otherwise don't alert us to your ignorance by speaking out. The obvious will show itself without your help.
--Dave Holaway, Chief of Police, Sahuarita
Editor's Reply: You misstate Mr. Vanderpool's premise; you confuse police work with what can be construed as mere "security work"; you all but threaten us with the elimination of public events if officers' private employment needs aren't met; you attempt, rather clumsily, to taint the reputation of a scholar by his past associations; you gloss over the abuses you've seen--leading one to wonder whether you bothered to report them; you say police "generally act appropriately," as if that's supposed to smooth over the times when they don't; and you make disparaging statements about a citizen, Paul Gattone, who expresses concerns about the constitutional rights shared by all Americans, not just cops. You're obviously wasting your time in that one-horse town, Dave--why not return to the Tucson Police Department? You'd fit right in; and with any luck, the chief's job will be open soon!
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