The demotion of a former Tucson police spokeswoman after she took provocative videos and photos of herself and sent them to a subordinate officer she was in a relationship with has been reversed by a Pima County Superior Court judge.
The Tucson Police Department demoted former Lt. Diana Lopez from lieutenant to sergeant in November 2012. An internal affairs investigation found that she took sexually explicit videos and a provocative photo of herself wearing her police uniform shirt using her personal cellphone and sent them to the subordinate officer. That officer then showed and shared them with other police officers.
The department alleged Lopez violated several department regulations, professional standards and a code of ethics.
Lopez appealed the demotion to the city’s Civil Service Commission, which upheld the decision at a hearing in January 2013, according to court documents.
Superior Court Judge Charles Harrington, in response to a complaint for special action filed by Lopez, ruled that the decision be reversed because the Police Department does not have a policy warning staff members against making and sharing sexually explicit materials with someone they are in an exclusive relationship with.
The ruling also said Lopez was not given fair notice that her conduct was prohibited and that she could be disciplined for it.
“Based upon the guiding legal authorities and the facts presented, it was not reasonable to sanction plaintiff’s conduct,” Harrington wrote. “All of plaintiff’s conduct was private and personal.”
The judge wrote it was “reasonable” that Lopez didn’t expect her boyfriend to share the images and, according to testimony, TPD has not previously disciplined others for similar conduct.
“The important part of it is that she did nothing wrong, her activities were completely legal and lawful, and what the judge said is that basically if you’re going to discipline somebody they have to have notice that their behavior is subject to discipline,” said attorney Michael Piccarreta, who is representing Lopez.
Harrington also wrote that the commission “failed to give consideration to the plaintiff’s excellent employment record with the department.”
The judge remanded the issue to the commission, which will have to reinstate her and award her back pay, Piccarreta said.
Piccarreta said he didn’t know how long it would take for the commission to issue its order.
“I think what’s really important is Diana is a really strong and intelligent woman and had the fortitude to take on City Hall when they wrongfully demoted her, and she knew that once she could get before a fair and impartial person that they would see it that way,” Piccarreta said.