Eighty-eight commissioned members of the Sheriff’s Department were disciplined in 2016, the overwhelming majority of which are considered informal sanctions, records show.
There are roughly 500 commissioned employees in the Sheriff’s Department, meaning they are considered law enforcement officers and carry a firearm on duty, ranging in ranks from deputies to the command staff and sheriff.
Not all of the 106 disciplinary actions were taken against deputies, but also sergeants and a lieutenant.
Several members were disciplined more than once last year, often relating to the same incident, and three deputies were suspended without pay last year, according to Pima County Sheriff’s Department records obtained through a public-records request.
There are several steps in the disciplinary process leading up to a suspension, including pre-action meetings, notice of suspension and the suspension.
The three suspensions resulted from a poor investigation, misuse of computer access and an off-duty DUI arrest, according to the records. There were 65 letters of counseling issued and four letters of reprimand. Thirty-one employees received “acknowledgments of verbal counseling.” The other two actions included a notice of pre-action meeting and two notices of suspension for deputies who were subsequently suspended without pay, the records show.
Eighteen of the complaints were initiated by someone outside of the department, and the rest were internal, according to the records.
The most common violation was preventable accident with property damage, which department supervisor Sgt. Christy Anderson said is usually a car accident.
Other types of violations included inappropriate off-duty behavior, sleeping on duty, accidental discharge of a firearm, poor appearance, insubordination, profanity, neglect of duty, reckless driving, erroneous release, improper arrest and failure to follow policies and procedures, and several others.
Several employees disciplined for inappropriate off-duty behavior were involved in an email chain regarding the campaign for sheriff, which violates the policy of not using work emails for personal or political reasons, according to disciplinary records.
The lowest form of discipline is an acknowledgment of verbal counseling, followed by a letter of counseling. Both are considered informal discipline and employees cannot file a grievance or appeal the decision, Anderson said.
Letters of reprimand and suspensions with or without pay are both formal disciplinary actions.
“A letter of reprimand is the only form of discipline that can be grieved, and suspensions can be appealed,” Anderson said.
Sheriff’s Department employees can file a grievance based on “misinterpretation, misapplication or unequal enforcement of Law Enforcement Merit System Rules, Personnel Policies or Administrative Procedures,” according to the department handbook.
It’s unclear if the 106 disciplinary actions were comparable to annual totals for previous years.
“We don’t have any control over what’s issued or not issued, or what’s looked at or not,” she said. “Sometimes we do end up having a lot more car accidents than we do in previous years, so there’s going to be discipline for those.”