Thursday, January 14, 2016



Documents outline details of Ducey's border strike force
Posted: Jan 14, 2016 3:20 PM MST
By Bob Christie, Associated Press
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's new border strike force will be phased in over several years and start with a smuggling interdiction force before adding an investigations team and then a team dedicated to operating in remote areas, according to a written plan obtained by The Associated Press.

The Department of Public Safety plan outlines the structure, goals and command structure of the force Ducey quietly created last year. Details of the full proposal have been scarce, but the 24-page plan obtained by the AP fills in the gaps of the operation Ducey is touting as a boost to state border-security efforts.

[READ: DPS: Arizona Border Strike Force ready to roll]

DPS Director Frank Milstead said in an interview Thursday that strike force staff will be added over three to five years. The agency plans to use three new twin-engine aircraft it recently received from the military that it will renovate and use for surveillance. Initially, it will provide federal agencies along the border with air support.

The force has already started operations using existing DPS troopers, and the plan intends to initially use current staff for roving "interdiction patrols" and limited operations in remote areas where drug and human smugglers operate.

New staff would be based in Pima County or other border areas to cut down on travel time.

The first order of business is to restore the 24-hour Highway Patrol coverage in the four border counties that had been cut because of tight budgets in recent years, Milstead said. That issue was brought to the forefront by sheriffs in Yuma and Santa Cruz counties, who complained that the state was adding a new border security operation while cutting regular patrols and tapping money that used to go to counties for other state uses.

"I'll tell you when I got here (in January) I did not know the DPS shut down at 2 (a.m.) nor did the governor nor his staff. That was something I discovered immediately when I got here," Milstead said. "The four border counties get 24-hour service first out of this strike force plan."

Funding is expected to be included in the budget plan Ducey releases Friday. Milstead declined to outline it in advance of the announcement.

The plan says staffing will have to increase substantially to create the interdiction, investigations and remote area operations. He envisioned hiring fewer than 50 new officers a year to help staff the new force.

"If we had an extra 200 troopers by the time this is over in the next three to five years that would be helpful," he said. "I haven't really looked statewide if that's enough, but the plan is to scale to deal with those four border counties first and we'll see what we can afford to put down there."

DPS currently has 1,150 sworn officers, down from a peak of just over 1,200 in 2009. The agency also has about 9.00 civilian employees.

The Arizona Sheriffs Association has called on Ducey to restore full highway patrols and county funding before launching a new border security force.

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot, the association's president, said he supports parts of the plan. Those include new DPS radios and intelligence operations and payments to counties for jailing and prosecuting smuggling suspects - but not the boots-on-the-ground plan Ducey envisions.

He said sheriffs in Yuma, Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties that already have border operations are better suited to the job than a state agency that doesn't routinely deal with border issues.

"Our need is to have the Arizona Highway Patrol out on the interstates and highways." Wilmot said, referring specifically to his county. "That's the greatest deterrent out there is the high profile presence."

Note:  Far from the first instance.  Protocols, procedures so citizens know it's law enforcement?
          Or wait for a big fat body count someday / night ?

Caller reports armed gang disguised as law enforcement
Nogales International Updated 20 hrs ago 

Police are on the lookout for a gang that allegedly held a group of people at gunpoint and assaulted one person after pulling up to a local home Sunday night in a convoy that included a cloned law enforcement vehicle.

Lt. Gerardo Castillo of the Santa Cruz County Sheriff's Office said his office received a 911 call shortly after 11 p.m. Sunday reporting the incident in the Pete Kitchen area north of Nogales city limits. The caller said several vehicles had approached a home carrying 10-12 armed subjects wearing ski masks, bulletproof vests and police insignia.

At least one of the vehicles appeared to be a cloned police car.

The group came into the home, took phones from the occupants and assaulted one of them. When the assailants left, one of the victims called 911 on a phone that had been concealed.

Sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene and provided medical attention to the assault victim, who wasn't badly hurt, Castillo said. They also shared information about the alleged incident with other law enforcement agencies in the area.

However, none of the people at the home wanted to be a participating victim in the police investigation.

Regardless, Castillo said, the Sheriff's Office is working closely with the HIDTA (High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area) Task Force to investigate the incident.

"When all these elements come into play – if there was a cloned vehicle, police insignia, bulletproof vests – obviously that's a huge concern for law enforcement," he said.

"It's not something that we're used to, or want to get used to," Castillo added.

The Sheriff's Office welcomes any information from the public, and tipsters can remain anonymous.


Update on AZ - SON public safety meeting (Spanish)  


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