Mesa Police pornographic e-mails

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Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies, Gilbert and Chandler police, and government employees from several cities, counties, and the Federal Government were involved in sending obscene, racist, graphic or indecent e-mails to the Mesa Police.


Deputies also sent indecent e-mail
By Daryl James, Tribune
June 18, 2006

At least three graphic or indecent e-mails that circulated last year in the Mesa Police Department originated from Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies. The e-mails were among hundreds flagged in a Mesa investigation that led to written reprimands or suspensions for city employees who forwarded racist, discriminatory or sexually explicit messages on their work accounts.

Several of the e-mails made fun of blacks, Latinos, “rednecks,” Mormons, gays, obese people or the elderly. Other e-mails included images of gore or sexually explicit cartoons, photographs, videos or audio files.

A Tribune analysis of the police e-mails, which the city attorney released to the public on June 9, also shows that several e-mails deemed inappropriate were forwarded to Gilbert and Chandler police officers and to more than one dozen sheriff’s deputies.

Messages were also forwarded to a Mesa Community College security officer, school employees in Sierra Vista, Casa Grande and Vail, and government workers in Tempe, Phoenix, Seattle, Pinal County, the state Department of Economic Security and the U.S. Department of Justice.

Mesa records do not indicate whether any of those emails were forwarded further or whether any generated complaints from outside Mesa.

Maricopa County sheriff’s Lt. Paul Chagolla said his department was unaware that deputies had forwarded some of the e-mails to Mesa police officers until notified Friday by the Tribune. He said sheriff’s commanders would look into the matter, and the information would not “fall on deaf ears.”

“The sheriff’s office has a strict policy regarding the use of the Internet and e-mails,” Chagolla said.

Phoenix, Chandler and Gilbert officials said they also have strict e-mail regulations, but none of those cities has plans for large-scale audits similar to Mesa’s e-mail investigation.

The lack of audits outside Mesa does not surprise Lee Rainey, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project in Washington, D.C.

He said few institutions nationwide are highly vigilant about e-mail, and the Mesa investigation was the largest and most complete audit he had ever heard of.

Consequently, Rainey said people should not conclude that Mesa employees are less responsible with their e-mail than anybody else. They are just the ones who got caught.

“It’s probably a useful lesson for everybody to learn,” Rainey said.

He said e-mail has become so embedded in everyday life that many employees forget they are doing something that can be easily monitored.

“They are alone in their cubicles or alone in their offices,” Rainey said. “And they don’t think of e-mail as an act that is under surveillance.”

Overall, about one in five Mesa police employees — and more than 200 city employees in other departments — face discipline. The investigation started last year with a complaint of sexual harassment in the city’s fleet services department.

Police reprimands

A breakdown of Mesa police employees facing discipline, by rank. Note that some appeals are pending.

Sergeants: 21
Total: 266

Contact Daryl James by email, or phone () -