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Arizona Gov. Ducey restricts civilian oversight of police misconduct

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey last week signed several bills limiting civilian oversight of law enforcement and making it harder for prosecutors to keep track of dishonest cops.

The measures were approved by legislative Republicans in party-line votes and backed by police unions in the wake of a national reckoning over racial justice.

On Friday, Ducey signed a bill giving cops a chance to fight their placement on the Brady list, a database maintained by prosecutors of law enforcement officers with credibility problems. The list is used to comply with the 1963 Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, in which the court ruled that prosecutors must tell defense attorneys when police involved in a case have a history of dishonest conduct.

Placement on the list can limit an officer’s career prospects because their testimony can be called into question by defense lawyers. But the measure prohibits disciplinary action solely for being placed on the list, though police agencies could still punish officers for the underlying offense.

Ducey on Friday also signed a bill requiring 80 hours of police training for civilians serving on officer misconduct review boards. On Wednesday he signed a bill requiring that sworn officers control at least two-thirds of the seats on police review boards, effectively outlawing civilian-led panels that some cities have adopted.

Republicans say officers should be evaluated by their peers who know the challenges of the job. Democrats say the measures, taken together, will make it significantly harder to root out cops who use excessive force.

“It has all the trappings of making it look like the fox is watching the henhouse here,” Sen. Kirsten Engel, a Tucson Democrat, said during the legislative debate.

The measures are advancing shortly after former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, was convicted of murder for pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, a Black man. Video of Floyd’s death sparked protests around the world against police brutality and the killings of Black people.

Civil rights advocates say the measures are a step back from the growing trend of having civilians oversee police discipline to ensure public accountability.

Also on Friday, Ducey signed a bill shielding gunmakers and lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association from lawsuits related to the misuse of guns, mirroring an existing federal law. It also designates retailers selling guns and ammunition as essential businesses, limiting the power to shut them down during pandemics or other emergencies.

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