Two former Tucson law-enforcement officers are facing the loss of their state certification and a third ex-detective will be barred from police work when he’s released from prison.
The Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board voted last week to initiate proceedings against former Tucson Police Capt. Decio Hopffer and former Pima County sheriff’s Deputy Kenneth Kimpel, said board spokeswoman Sandy Sierra.
The board also voted to accept a consent agreement with former Pima County sheriff’s Detective David Tarnow, Sierra said.
Without a valid peace officer certification, a person is barred from working in law enforcement in the state.
Kimpel was fired from the Sheriff’s Department in April after he tested positive for cocaine on a random drug test and a follow-up test performed a week later, according to AZPOST documents obtained through a public record’s request.
The second hair test came back March 30, and during the subsequent investigation Kimpel provided a variety of answers as to how cocaine could have gotten into his system, the documents show.
During his first interview, Kimpel said there was no reason he would have cocaine in his system and if he thought he was going to test positive, “he would have shaved his entire body before the second test” so he wouldn’t be able to provide a hair sample, according to the documents.
Kimpel told investigators he previously had handled drugs without gloves as a jail detective, but there was no documentation of Kimpel dealing with cocaine evidence in 2016 or 2017, the documents show.
Kimpel offered alternate explanations for the positive tests, saying that on March 21 — four days after the first failed drug test — he went to a concert and left his beer unattended. Kimpel also said he frequented a bar where the bartender calls him “detective,” and that someone may have put something into his food or drink, according to the documents.
Finally, Kimpel “also offered an explanation” saying he was at the theater around Jan. 1 and had “been taking hits” off the e-cigarette of an unknown woman, the documents show.
Hopffer, then a Tucson police captain, resigned in lieu of termination in April after an internal investigation found he rear-ended another vehicle and left the scene of the crash, AZPOST documents show.
On March 27, Hopffer was on duty, driving his unmarked department vehicle on Tucson’s south side when he rear-ended a car that was stopped in front of him, the documents show.
The driver got out of her car and noticed there was damage, but when Hopffer approached, he told her there was no damage to her vehicle. The woman requested they pull out of the road and exchange information, to which Hopffer agreed, according to the documents.
Instead, Hopffer got back into his car and “sped away.” The woman followed him and was able to get a license plate number, after which she called the police. The woman provided police with the license number and a description of Hopffer, and police contacted him for an interview.
When criminal investigators spoke to Hopffer, he said he was stopped at a light behind several vehicles when his phone rang and he looked at his watch. He inadvertently took his foot off the brake and rolled into the vehicle in front of him, the documents show.
Hopffer said that while he got out of his car to assess the damage, the other driver didn’t, but waved her hand to indicate they were going to “pull forward,” the documents show.
The woman proceeded to turn left through a light that Hopffer couldn’t make, and he said he lost her in traffic and was unable to find her vehicle despite circling the area, according to the documents.
Hopffer said he couldn’t have been driving more than 1 mph when he hit the woman’s car and he’d be “shocked if there was any damage” to her vehicle. He didn’t report the accident, since there was no damage to his car and he couldn’t find the woman, the documents show.
Surveillance cameras verified the woman’s story that she attempted to find Hopffer, but cameras along Hopffer’s reported route “did not correspond to his story,” according to the documents.
When investigators checked Hopffer’s car, they noticed damage that matched damage to the woman’s vehicle, and a lieutenant believed there was probable cause to arrest Hopffer on charges of hit-and-run, the documents show.
In subsequent interviews with TPD’s office of professional standards, Hopffer did not change his story and investigators found there was “ample proof that (Hopffer) lied” in the investigation, according to the documents.
The criminal case against Hopffer was presented to the Pima County Attorney’s Office, which declined to file charges. Hopffer was given a criminal citation for leaving the scene of a crime. Hopffer submitted his retirement to TPD days later.
Tarnow was arrested in January 2016 after a criminal investigation revealed he was stealing and selling items from the department’s evidence inventory at local pawn shops, according to Arizona Daily Star archives.
He was charged with three felony counts of trafficking in stolen property, two counts of fraud and one count each of theft and extortion, Pima County Superior Court records show.
In May, Tarnow pleaded guilty to theft of property and fraudulent schemes and artifice, admitting to the court that he stole property from 2013 to 2015.
He was sentenced in June to 4½ years in prison, followed by five years probation, court records show.