If you hear someone say Protectatores Samaritanis you may assume you are hearing something repeated from a Harry Potter movie but in fact it is the motto of the DES Protectives Services. Protectors of the Samaritans was adopted as the unit motto in June of 2016. After the San Bernardino shooting in a California DES building, which killed 16 state employees in 2015, the Arizona DES Director ordered the review and expansion of security at the approximately 120 DES locations in Arizona.
In late February 2016, DES hired Dr. Charles Loftus, who had served the previous eight years at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office in the Special Investigation leadership team. Dr. Loftus was particularly well fit for this assignment because he has experience in institutional security after serving with one of the nation’s largest university police departments for over twenty years. Dr. Loftus also has considerable experience in the counter-terror preparedness and is Israeli trained in these areas. Jeffries gave Dr. Loftus two missions: professionalize security by January 2017, and then increase the professionalization of the sworn investigative operations.
The security improvement for DES was approached in a holistic manner; security guards, access control, lighting, parking and changing an organization approach to security were examined. After Dr. Loftus started his new assignment, fourteen of the largest DES facilities were selected for threat assessments as the initial priority. These locations were chosen because they house around 75% of DES staff statewide. DES employees and clients were not his only concern; Arizona Department Child Safety personnel are often housed within DES facilities, which often brings a new dimension of threats.
Once Dr. Loftus arrived, he learned that DES was a very wild place at times. Almost daily, someone is arrested in one of the 120 DES lobbies or parking lots ranging from assault, weapon violations, and public drug use. Separate from the arrests, there is a DES employee threatened by a client several times a week. Dr. Loftus recalled, “I found it amazing that a client asking for help would look at a case worker in the eyes and tell them he was going to kill them.” After these types of threats, DES investigators had to look into the threat and take steps to protect the employee and location. With close to 8000 employees, threats are from within as well. Dr. Loftus recounted that it was not uncommon to have up to twenty different orders of protection active for domestic violence and other matters from DES employees’ personal lives.
Dr. Loftus was not happy with the quality of security guards provided by private security companies, and he saw a need to improve the service provided to the state. Under the direction of Jeffries, he started replacing the contract guards with trained DES state employees. Other media outlets have reported about the happy face and Ditat Deus on the DES guards’ uniform shirts, but nobody has mentioned Protectatores Samaritanis on the right sleeve. Dr. Loftus said, “It was a simple choice for a motto, DES employees are the Samaritans of Arizona working for low pay and under difficult situations. DES Protective Services was there to protect them. We had their backs, and having that on the uniform would help remind them and the guards of the mission.”
Dr. Loftus asked ADI to go to a DES facility and look in the lobby. “These poor souls are at the most difficult point in their lives, their faces show it. While visiting the McKinley DES location in August of 2016, one of the DES guards said to me – ‘look there in the lobby, there is nobody ever smiling in this lobby and tempers flare easily,’” stated Loftus.
Dr. Loftus then shared a family tragedy and what others could learn from it. His cousin was the President at Umpqua Community College in 2015 when a gunman killed nine students and a professor. He said the school and community were not only victimized the day of the attack but every time another attack occurs elsewhere. We must approach prevention with a wide degree of preventative steps, the employees are the state’s largest investment. He added the recent arrest in Tucson where Mahin Khan was arrested in July of 2016 for one count of terrorism and one count of conspiracy to commit terrorism as a good example. He suggested there was a reason Khan planned the attack for the Tucson Arizona Motor Vehicle office without any armed security and not the Tucson DES location where DES has armed guards.
On November 23, 2016, the day before Thanksgiving, Dr. Loftus was walked out of DES along with Director Timothy Jeffries, Human Resources Chief Morris Greenidge, and Inspector General Juan Arcellana. The Arizona Department of Administration was alleging 70,000 rounds of ammunition and guns were missing. Dr. Loftus shared with ADI, “ADOA was really-really mad about something, it wasn’t the ammo and guns – they were all there, that stuff is a red harring. It’s a made-up story. They [ADOA] sent the DPS SWAT team in raid gear to take over the Protective Services unit. Cops pointing guns at cops, what a dangerous mess. I think it was just a power play by Kirk Adams to show how powerful he is. I’m surprised he didn’t tweet on the Governor’s Twitter account, ‘WE GOT THEM.’ Someday, they [ADOA] has to tell the truth that nothing is missing. Hopefully, when that happens someone will ask why did you fire me [Loftus]?”
By all accounts, DES made an excellent choice in hiring Dr. Charles Loftus, and he selected a very talented team to accomplish the objectives handed down by Director Timothy Jeffries to make DES a safer place for Arizonans. Evidence is very strong the missing ammunition and guns was a fabricated story by the ADOA and Arizona Republic. It is a mystery why ADOA is returning other at-will employees who apparently did nothing wrong. When Dr. Loftus asked about the appeal process Governor Ducey is taunting, Loftus said, “I checked into the Governor’s appeal process and submitted a claim through the State Ombudsman. Not too long after I made the request, I received a call from Nancy Gomez who said the appeal process was for everyone else but me.”
ADI will continue to uncover the real reason for ADOA’s attack on good and loyal public servants.