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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Tucson Police Officer Diana Lopez: Behavior Unbecoming and the Loss of Police Accountability

     In August 2012, internal affairs investigators with the Tucson Arizona Police Department learned that between May and August 2011, Lieutenant Diana Lopez, via her personal cellphone, had sent sexually explicit videos of herself to a subordinate officer on the force. The subordinate showed the videos to several other Tucson Police Officers who kept the whole thing quiet for about a year.

     The Tucson Chief of Police, in February 2013, on grounds that Lieutenant Lopez had violated departmental regulations and standards of conduct, demoted her to patrol sergeant. Assistant Chief Kathleen Robinson, in her departmental report, wrote: "Lopez used extremely poor judgment in sending these images undermining her credibility as a commander. Her actions have negatively affected not only her reputation, but the reputation and mission of the Tucson Police Department."

     Officer Lopez's attorney, Michael Piccarreta, announced that his client was considering filing a civil lawsuit against the city and the department for wrongful demotion. Lopez would also, according to the attorney, appeal her demotion to the state Civil Service Commission.

     Attorney Piccarreta, in speaking to a local reporter about the case said, "The case raises constitutional issues when there is lawful off-duty behavior, and a wrongdoer [the subordinate officer] violates your trust and privacy rights without your permission or consent by making it public."

     In the summer of 2013, the state Civil Service Commission upheld Lopez's demotion.

     In May 2014, Superior Court Judge Charles Harrington reversed the department's demotion of Lopez. The judge rationalized his decision on the fact the police department did not have an explicit policy warning officers against making and showing sexually explicit materials. (In order to foresee all the stupid things a police officer might do, the department's manual of professional conduct would have to be massive.)

     In addressing attorney Piccarreta's points, I'm not sure how the police department violated officer Lopez's constitutional rights by demoting her for sending sex tapes to a lower ranking member of the force. On the violation of privacy issue, cellphone images carry no expectancy of privacy. In fact, one can expect that sexually oriented videos sent by cellphone will eventually go public.

     While attorney Picarreta's strongest argument might have been the off-duty activity aspect, police officers, in reality, are never off-duty. If you punch an off-duty cop you will be arrested on the spot. Obviously, what police officers do on their own time can affect the department and the profession. The fact that Lopez's embarrassing off-duty actions were not criminal offenses misses the point.

   Judge Harrington, in interfering with the internal administrative workings of a police department, lowered the bar regarding what is considered professional police conduct. The fact this officer wasn't fired for embarrassing the profession reveals a serious lack of police accountability. Public employees have become immune from being fired. Citizens have lost control of a government that serves itself rather than the public.

     Diana Lopez, as Lieutenant Diana Duffy, filed a claim against the city in April 2015. According to Michael Storie, her attorney, as a result of the wrongful demotion, Lieutenant Duffy suffered from financial and emotional stress. The attorney was asking the city of Tucson to pay his client $120,000 in damages. The current chief of police supported this claim.

     As October 2016, the Duffy lawsuit remained unresolved.

     

8 comments:

  1. Finally someone has put into words what I have been thinking all along. These videos were bound to get out and the fact that it took over a year is not what should be considered. The point in question is about judgment. Lopez should have never sent the videos to begin with. Read the documents. This is not about some sexy pose in a uniform T- shirt. This is about several very graphic sex acts that is not in good taste (she is a 40 year old mother of three). In fact if this were a man doing this there is no doubt he would be fired. So enough with the double (no pun intended) standard crap. She should have been fired plain and simple. Lopez should be thankful the videos did not get disclosed which obviously means someone lied in the investigation when asked if they had them and move on.

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  2. Stop the finger pointing. I could not agree more. How on earth someone would think given all the history with sex tapes ALWAYS being discovered that Lopez thought she would be different. They always get found. Not to mention that most likely the people that knew about them did not say anything until it either served their personal mission or it was pay back time either way she should have known better. Tired of reading about right to privacy. There is no privacy as soon as she hit send. Get over it and move on and own up. That was a really dumb thing to do male or female!

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  3. As a female police officer I can tell you that the rules in an organization are very different for woman then men. If you don’t date you’re a lesbian, if you do you’re a whore. If you marry then you did it because you are insecure. Usually it is a no win situation. Now that being said, making a video of yourself in compromising sex scenarios and then sending them to a guy you are not even in a lasting relationship with let alone a committed relationship is juvenile and asinine to say the least. What on earth did she think was going to happen? Lopez has set the clock back on how women are viewed in law enforcement. Thank you very much! She completely deserved to be demoted. I am just shocked that she was not fired. Is there no POST oversight in Arizona?

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  4. Arizona has AZPOST which if they are doing their job will review the investigation and call for at minimum a suspension of her certification. My speculation is this will happen (I talked with a friend in Phx who used to do this for AZPOST. He said it might take a while but it will happen off duty or not). The guy who showed the videos and the officers who viewed them at work will also no doubt be suspended as well. This is such a sad situation as we in law enforcement are held to such a higher standard and know this in advance. For command personnel to be engaging in this kind of behavior is unsettling and I applaud the Chief for her decision. A message needs to resonate through that organization and the law enforcement community as well that we will live up to the expectations people have of us.

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  5. I must admit that when I first heard about this story I was on the side of how could a department hold her accountable for something she did off duty. But the more I read (read the documents) the more I thought she was wrong. I am not saying she should be crucified but as a public information officer she should have known this story would go national. The other theme I found was the gender one. Look it doesn’t help that she is attractive but there are also double standards. A male officer making a video of himself doing what she was doing (masturbating) and kissing a male officer in the locker room and you have an outcry with everyone going “gross and disgusting”. But we (me included) tend to accept female sexual display with a level of acceptance that men do not get. No I am not comparing this to the firemen calendar because this is clearly not the same. But in public safety there is a different standard altogether and that is the one that this incident should be measured against. The standard that says I will not engage in conduct on or off duty that is detrimental to my reputation (she was a Lt) or my department. Sorry Ms. Lopez, your ex-boyfriend is a jerk and he hung you out to dry, but you allowed him to be in a position to do that to you.

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  6. I feel bad for her as we all make mistakes. She obviously trusted a guy who burned her and her career. This guy took total advantage of her and showed his true feelings about her to everyone. Why else would he send and show the pictures and videos to co-workers. These were meant to be private and should have stayed between the two of them. But just because I feel bad for her doesn’t mean I don’t support the decision to discipline her. Demotion is light for my department. There is no doubt our chief would have fired her. You just cannot conduct yourself on or off duty like that and expect a slap on the wrist. Time for a change, color your hair, buy some new clothes, new workout routine and stop dating men (or women) in your department and lay low. Focus on something more important like your family. Good luck!

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  7. This is an interesting story as it really challenges the position of one’s right to privacy. I understand the concerns many people have with “when is too much, too much” when it comes to your agency reviewing your actions in your private life off duty. I too have the same concerns. I agree that at times it feels like we in law enforcement are held to an unacceptable level of review and that at times it appears unfair. But in the end, this is for the betterment of law enforcement in general and we have come to accept this when we take the job. There is no getting around this fact. The media is always poised and ready to pounce anytime a cop gets in trouble. We also know this in advance and should take precautions to make sure they do not get the opportunity. I have looked at this case and have come to the conclusion that this is not really about a right to privacy so much as it is about a lack of judgment. Not a lack of judgment for making sex videos (off duty). A lack of judgment in deciding to transmit these videos and failing to understand that by doing so she dramatically increased the odds of them being disclosed to others who they were not intended for. Lack of judgment for not foreseeing the consequences of her actions should they (videos/pictures) be discovered and disseminated. This is not a sexy pose in a department T-shirt as has been portrayed but instead material that would probably not pass the public approval test. There is no getting around that the content of the videos changes the level of acceptance. Lack of judgment for engaging in inappropriate conduct in the workplace (locker room). She is a lieutenant and should always be setting the example locker room or not. In the end, I support a person’s right to privacy, but that is not what this case is about. It is about a lack of judgment.

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  8. I happen to know the other 2 female officers that were in the video she made. By the way I notice not much mention in all of this is the other 2 women involved because she was the ranking officer. Either way neither of the other officers were punished in any way. To the contrary it was covered up.

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