ARIZONA NEWS

If he’d already been fired, trooper couldn’t have fired on Dion Johnson

Jul 20, 2020, 1:00 PM
(Facebook Photo/Arizona DPS)...
(Facebook Photo/Arizona DPS)
(Facebook Photo/Arizona DPS)

I don’t understand law enforcement agencies that don’t fire bad cops. They make the jobs of all their officers more difficult and the departments are having to go to greater and greater lengths to defend the lawful use of force by good cops. 

But the most awkward position of all (for departments and police unions) has to be defending the lawful actions of a cop whose past includes unlawful actions.

Stuff that would get you and me fired and possibly land us in jail. 

Case in point: Arizona State Trooper George Cervantes, the trooper who fatally shot Dion Johnson on the Loop 101 in north Phoenix on the same day George Floyd died. 

Trooper Cervantes may have acted appropriately that morning, but he shouldn’t have encountered Johnson in the first place because he should’ve been fired years ago for some completely inappropriate actions. 

Because Dion Johnson had alcohol, opioids and methamphetamines in his system that morning, one could see how he may have not even realized he was fighting a cop. Witness accounts seem to confirm that there was a struggle going on inside Johnson’s Toyota Prius. 

And one could certainly understand Trooper Cervantes saying he shot Johnson when he went for his service weapon. 

But I can also understand not taking Cervantes word for it when an internal affairs report shows the trooper’s past includes: 

  • Stalking and intimidating an ex-girlfriend while in uniform and while using his patrol vehicle.
  • Threatening to shoot his ex-wife’s fiance.
  • Using a department-issued Taser  — multiple times  — to discipline his dog.

Cervantes was suspended without pay for some of these transgressions but he should’ve been permanently suspended without pay — as in fired — and never trusted again with the authority a badge represents and the deadly force a service weapon can inflict. 

Last week, Rep. Greg Stanton proposed a bill that would require departments that receive federal funds to have all of their officers wear body cams  — something Trooper Cervantes wasn’t wearing the day he shot Dion Johnson. 

But since technology hasn’t produced a camera that can see the bad behavior of the past, we need to rely on the command structure of departments to make sure the unhinged don’t get a future as a cop. 

And if command officers won’t fire the bad cops, then we, the public that these departments are supposed to be protecting and serving, should serve them a pink slip.  

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If he’d already been fired, trooper couldn’t have fired on Dion Johnson