My promise to you as Pima County Attorney has been to change how we view the criminal justice system and how we serve our community through reforms aimed at transparency and accountability.
This past month, I put those promises into action with multiple appearances at the Arizona State Capitol, where I testified for and against bills designed to impact the very reforms I vowed to pursue in my time in The People’s Office.
I stood virtually alone in front of the House Judiciary Committee on HB2021, a bill that would have a chilling effect on #harmprevention in instances when seconds matter for a person experiencing a drug overdose. With the grieving parents of children who died of overdoses behind me and a concerned panel of lawmakers in front of me, I made a case that adding the threat of murder charges for those who “transfer” any narcotic that ultimately contributes to an overdose death is a significant expansion of the #WarOnDrugs, which has long been a losing strategy in a difficult battle.
My fear is that friends, relatives, lovers and roommates who bring narcotics to one another will hesitate for fear of nearly 30 years in prison rather than making the immediate decision to call 9-1-1 and get the help needed to save a life.
While my argument in this understandably emotional and inhospitable chamber did not carry the day, several members of the Judicial Committee cast their votes to move it forward with the caveat that they may ultimately vote against this frightening expansion of criminal charges. And the record shows that while 72 interested parties have expressed support for HB2021, 431 have stood against it. It comforts me that I am not actually alone in this.
The following day, I testified in favor of Senate Bill 1217, which would give victims of domestic violence up to an additional four days of court-ordered protection from abuse to get their affairs in order and make a safety plan with our wonderful local domestic violence advocate partners.
This bill, which provides up to five days for a temporary order of protection versus the daily renewal requirement under the current rules, passed its third reading before the Senate Judiciary Committee with 28 votes in favor and two abstentions, and is expected to be signed into law by Gov. Ducey.
I will continue to take my voice for reform to the State Capitol because it is critical we change the culture of how we deal with crime and victims. While I will continue to deal appropriately with those who pose a true threat to society, we cannot continue to prosecute our way out of social ills that are better addressed with diversion, treatment and second chances.
At the end of our first year, we said farewell to two vital members of my leadership team, with the retirement of Chief Detective Keith St. John and the departure of Communications Director Joe Watson and welcomed their successors – new Chief Detective Fabian Pacheco and new Communications Director C.T Revere.
Keith finished out 45 years of serving Pima County residents, starting at the Pima County Sheriff’s Department in 1977 and moving to PCAO in 2001. His amazing run in law enforcement has been honored with a proclamation that will be on display in the office he served so well at the Legal Services Building.
Joe made history, joining my team after being incarcerated for a decade, bringing an understanding of the system that ushered in a new era of respect in how we treat, talk about, and consider those whose crimes put them into the criminal justice system.
Meanwhile, we are pleased to have another veteran of local law enforcement atop our Detective Unit and an experienced communications professional in heading our communications team.
Fabian takes over as Chief Detective after joining PCAO four years ago and working alongside the Drug Enforcement Administration. He previously was with the Tucson Police Department, where he spent time as a homicide detective, Operations Division Captain and Public Information Officer. Chief Pacheco was born and raised in Nogales, AZ, and his comfort with bilingual outreach will continue to help us reach all of our community.
During our interview with Fabian, he said to me: “No one should live in the shadows, underground and in fear. Everyone should feel safe to report crime, and everyone should feel comfortable seeking help.”
If that doesn’t sum up The People’s Office, I don’t know what does.
C.T.’s experience includes 22 years writing for daily newspapers, three years as Chief of Staff in a Tucson City Council Office, seven years with ADOT Communications and five years as Public Involvement Director at a local communications and marketing firm. If you know C.T., and who doesn’t (?), you know we’ve brought a wise, kind soul on to the Senior Leadership Team.
Our office has been active in two annual February traditions in the past month – promoting the #LoveOfReading and #BlackHistoryMonth.
I have been joined by some on my leadership team in supporting Love of Reading, which is a Week or a Month depending on who you ask. I enjoyed reading to students at Roberts-Naylor K-8 School and at Howell Elementary School along with Outreach Coordinator Patrick Robles, while Legal Administrator Arika Wells read to students at Laura N. Banks Elementary School.
While the core mission of instilling a passion for reading can serve young citizens for a lifetime, getting myself and my staff out into the community in a multitude of ways helps to build connections and form relationships that foster empathy and support that make #SafeCommunities.
For the annual recognition of the astounding contributions of the Black community, we celebrated people inside and outside of PCAO by featuring their accomplishments and commitment to the #CoreValues we embrace in my office.
We started with a profile of our outstanding Chief Civil Deputy Sam Brown – the first Black attorney to hold that important leadership post at PCAO. Sam’s duties include advising the Pima County Board of Supervisors and other county leaders as well as managing a diverse group of lawyers who enforce environmental and land-use regulations, help to protect our elections, defend county agencies in lawsuits and a host of other services that safeguard the county and taxpayers.
We followed with a profile of University of Arizona graduate student Precious Craig, a native of Nigeria who is among the youngest students in the College of Pharmacy and well down the path toward becoming a community leader. This profile is also part of the Office’s ongoing outreach and partnership between our Health Law Unit in Civil, our Diversion work in Criminal, our Victim Advocates, and the Public Health community county-wide.
Our last profile of Black History Month features Legal Administrator Arika Wells, who oversees our Human Resources, Information Technology and Finance teams, comprising more than 200 employees and a $39.2 million annual budget, while also enjoying life as a sports mom and community volunteer.
We are grateful for all the contributions of these standouts in our community and many more who exemplify the best of us!
Expect another Community Newsletter from us in January.