During what is expected to be a contentious Tuesday morning meeting, the Pima County Board of Supervisors will vote whether or not the Pima County Sheriff can accept three grants from the federal government for Operation Stonegarden and the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety for seatbelt and car seat enforcement. Both are tasks the sheriff’s office will be involved in or affected by whether the grants are accepted or not. Appointed by Pima County Supervisor Steve Christy, I serve as the vice chair of the Pima County Community Law Enforcement Partnership Commission (CLEPC) which recently voted to recommend refusal of all three grants. Please note the recommendations made by CLEPC to the Supervisors are non-binding and they can be accepted or rejected.
First, the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Seatbelt Enforcement Grant is part of the two-week national “Click It or Ticket” campaign. Car seat violations are a primary violation but seatbelt violations are a secondary violation, meaning an officer can stop you for not having your child in a car seat, but there has to be another violation that you are stopped for other than not wearing a seatbelt. The law allows a court to dismiss the first car seat violation if you show the court you have a car seat and you know how to use it properly. It’s inconvenient, but in the long run, it is about public education. For those who can’t afford a car seat, there are local resources available to obtain a free car seat. These violations are non-moving violations, no points go against the operator’s driver license, nor do they affect insurance rates. The Pima County Health Department, Banner Health, hospitals, fire departments, and police departments have certified technicians who provide car seats and ensure their proper use. Contact a local Justice or Municipal Court for specific details.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2017, there were 10,076 unbuckled passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in the United States. Almost 57 percent of young adults (18 to 34) killed in crashes were completely unrestrained, and 59 percent of pickup truck occupants who were killed were not buckled up. In 2017, 51 percent of men killed in crashes were not buckled up, compared to 39 percent of women.
This Seatbelt Enforcement Grant is a good measure to help promote safety, reduce fatal collisions, and educate the public. The commission voted 5 – 4 to recommend rejection of it, offering no rationale during the brief discussion and vote.
The more controversial Operation Stonegarden Grants are used to layer the local, tribal, state, and federal agencies in known smuggling routes. Pima County has been and remains one of the busiest narcotic smuggling corridors in the country. Law enforcement is often reactive as calls for service, high volume traffic areas, and areas known for traffic collisions dictate where officers spend most of their time patrolling. This grant allows Pima County to be proactive these areas. A review of jurisdictions shows there are corridors that are rarely patrolled. Often, those outer edge areas of jurisdictions may have some coverage for a small portion of a shift, but there is never 24/7 coverage, creating a spatial void of law enforcement presence. These areas often become a smuggling corridor.
Stonegarden Grants allow proactive enforcement using intelligence to coordinate resources to intercept narcotics and other criminal activity. The focus is on criminal activity, not undocumented/illegal immigrants. Agencies are permitted to break away from the grant mission to handle calls for service. In addition, equipment purchased is vital to other sheriff’s department operations, such as search and rescue. The commission voted 6 – 4 to recommend rejection of these grants.
Those opposed to accepting the grants will tell you it’s about racial profiling, but will fail to provide a specific incident, date, time, agency, or location. Some members of CLEPC do not want any sort of enforcement or uniformed presence. One of the commissioners on the CLEPC even posted on social media that all officers should be jobless. These commissioners are not working in the best interest of the residents of Pima County. Accepting these grants is both a smart financial and public safety decision, and I urge you to contact your Pima County Supervisor.
|Ally Miller District 1|
|Ramón Valadez District 2|
|Sharon Bronson District 3|
|Steve Christy District 4|
|Richard Elías District 5|
Kevin McNichols is a retired Sergeant from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, who serves as the vice chair of the Pima County CLEPC. His views are his own, and do not represent the views of CLEPC.