Arpaio releases report on bungled investigations - New York News

MCSO: Too many cases, too few investigators led to botched investigations

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PHOENIX -

The sheriff for metropolitan Phoenix has released 10,000 pages of documents on an internal probe into sex-crime cases.

There was just one copy of the report, and Monday afternoon, MCSO gave the media just one hour to go through it.

The documents released Monday afternoon explain why hundreds of sex-crime cases were either inadequately investigated or not looked into at all during a 3-year period ending in 2007.

Internal Affairs found that 8 officers in the sex crimes unit made so many wrong moves that it was tough to pin the blame on any one person.

IA investigators say MCSO's sex crimes unit had too few officers, too many cases, and tight budget restrictions -- and found it "unreasonable" to expect staff to succeed under these conditions. Error after error was found in the unit -- from officers using their "own individual system" to track cases, to improperly storing original pieces of evidence in their officers -- and over and over cases weren't followed up on.

One of those cases was a 13-year-old girl impregnated by a 20-year-old suspect. The officer assigned to the case couldn't explain why he never investigated it.

Lt. Suzanne Seagraves was head of the department from 2006 to 2008. The report shows she would clear cases that had little or no work done of them. She claims she repeatedly asked for additional staff and was denied, and claimed she was once told to "shut up about it."

Things got worse once the unit took on the cases of the City of El Mirage, which paid Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office for police services. Some officers pointed the finger at former Chief Deputy David Hendershott, saying he knew they couldn't handle the caseload, but took on more anyway.

On top of it all, there were problems between officers within the unit. Lt. Seagraves complained to her boss about sexually inappropriate comments made by a commander regarding her body, her clothing, and her dating life.

The investigation into the botched cases was launched in May 2008 after El Mirage discovered at least 32 reported child molestations in which the agency failed to follow through.

Arpaio's office later reopened 400 of those sex crimes cases that were reported to the agency but not resolved.

In 2011, MCSO apparently overhauled its system of managing sex crimes cases. They now require specified training and refresher courses, and also require additional staff.

In the end, no one was disciplined for the botched cases.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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