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Contracts, ‘Lack of Oversight’ Give Cops ‘Latitude to Protect Themselves’ From Justice

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The uncovering of a Tucson officer’s history of misconduct has resulted in the review of more than 100 court cases in Arizona. Though the county attorney responsible for the records claims it was a clerical error, it raises questions about a greater systemic issue that protects cops while bringing the gavel down on innocent individuals.

Tucson County Attorney Barbara LaWall failed to add Tucson Police Department Officer Crystal Morales’ misconduct to the Law Enforcement Activity Disclosure List (LEAD), formerly referred to as the “Brady List,” which acts as a record for law enforcement officials found guilty of lying. Names from the list are then given to defense attorneys for transparency regarding the officer’s integrity.

Morales’ questionable credibility stems from a 2015 incident in which the off-duty officer lied to area police about her involvement in a bar brawl. The discovery of her dishonesty even led to a recommendation for her firing.


Despite LaWall being notified of the officer’s dishonesty by TPD Lieutenant Matt Ronstadt on February 9, 2016, according to local Tucson outlet KVOA, Morales’ name was never put on the LEAD List.

It would not be until April 2019 that the error was discovered by Chief Criminal Deputy Tom Weaver, who told a public defender that Morales “should have been listed on the Brady List back in early 2016,” reported KVOA.

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To make sense of why and how something like this could occur within the US legal system, the hosts of Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear were joined during their Thursday “Criminal Injustice” series by Paul Wright, the founder and executive director of the Human Rights Defense Center and editor of Prison Legal News, and Kevin Gosztola, a writer for Shadowproof.com and co-host of the podcast “Unauthorized Disclosure.”

Wright pointed out that in more cases than not, misconduct or issues such as Morales’ are treated as “isolated cases” that are not indicative of any systemic problem, despite over 100 cases now being reviewed.

Rather than closely examine what root of what could’ve altered dozens of people’s lives, these incidents are treated as singular phenomena, which effectively “overlooks the fact that there’s a real lack of oversight and accountability with police officers,” Wright told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou, also pointing out the staggering statistic that “10-15% of police officers nationally have been convicted of a crime of some sort.”

Tucson.com reported in April that of the current 254 officers on the LEAD List for nine law enforcement agencies in Pima County, only 30 were still employed.

Gosztola went on to argue that while there have been social justice awakenings, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, that have assisted with individuals learning their basic rights, there is still a lack of accountability for law enforcement.

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Furthermore, the Shadowproof.com writer said that even the “political consequence to representatives” elected to office is not sufficient to secure justice. Instead, the consequences need to “filter down to the system,” so police departments and high-ranking police officials are held accountable.

“You can have union contracts where it protects you from having to disclose certain records or share certain information with the public. You can have things that make it so you have 24 hours after a shooting where you aren’t interviewed or you have so much time to get your story straight for the investigator,” Gosztola explained. “This gives police so much latitude to protect themselves from being prosecuted.”

KVOA reports that Public Defender Joel Feinman, who lost the 2016 Demoratic county attorney election to LaWall, and his staff are currently reviewing every case tied to Morales to determine if the defendants deserve to have new trials, be released from jail, or receive other relief allowed by Pima County’s legal system.

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