The idea was not to throw the entire law enforcement community under the bus.
Although that is what the judge did.
The idea was to challenge the makeup of Arizona’s Board of Executive Clemency. That was the plan of the legal representatives of death row inmate Clarence Dixon. They filed a petition with the court saying that the board was “illegally constituted” by having too many former law enforcement professionals on it.
According to state law, “No more than two members from the same professional discipline shall be members of the board at the same time.”
It’s a good rule. One of those rare instances of common sense from our state lawmakers. The idea is to populate the board with a cross section of the citizenry, since the group will be making life or death decisions.
Who knew they weren’t professionals?
In Arizona, the governor can commute a death sentence, but can only do so if that is what the clemency board recommends.
The board is supposed to have five members. One seat is vacant at the moment and three of the others are filled with men who spent their professional lives in law enforcement.
Or so they thought.
Michael Johnson and Salvador Freni each retired from the Phoenix Police Department after decades of service.
Louis Quinonez spent years working for different agencies within the same profession.
Or so he presumed.
Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Stephen Hopkins disagreed, ruling that, “Historically, law enforcement has not been thought of as a ‘profession.’ ”
Silly ‘Professional Standards Bureau’
Because every single law enforcement officer I’ve come into contact with over the years, individuals who have studied criminal justice, gone through rigorous training at the police academy and spent years, sometimes decades, developing their skills and their expertise, considered themselves to be part of a proud, universally recognized profession.
Not according to this judge, who said of the non-profession of law enforcement, “It is not regulated as other professions are, and has little of the characteristics of what is typically considered a profession.”
This must have come as a shock to, say, the Phoenix Police Department, which presumably will now disband its “Professional Standards Bureau” since, according to this particular court ruling, its officers are not professionals.
The lawyers for inmate Dixon are contemplating an appeal of the judge’s ruling.
Which would result in the first time – ever – that the entire law enforcement community joined forces with a death row inmate.
Reach Montini at [email protected]
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Judge rules that ‘law enforcement’ is NOT a profession