Friday, December 10, 2021

VICTORY FOR GOVT OVERSIGHT AND DEMOCRACY: Lawmakers applaud AZ DOCRR for removing offensive patches from uniforms

State Rep. Mitzi Epstein (D-LD18) and former Rep. Diego Rodriguez praised the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry for ordering the removal of offensive patches from the uniforms of special operations officers. The lawmakers intervened after the Arizona Republic's Jimmy Jenkins reported on the patches and challenge coins made up of lightning bolts, skulls and cross bones and crossed shotguns - symbols that could be likened to Nazi and gang imagery.

The ADCRR sent a letter to the lawmakers this week confirming that they would remove the patches, and admitting that the Department had been responsible for permitting them in 2018.

Epstein told Arizona's Politics that it was a victory for government oversight and democracy:
It's a great thing when people work together and listen.  Just listen.  The ADCRR chose the correct action: stop using the patch. They wrote that they want to be, "sensitive to the way that others may interpret its meaning."   This is how democracy and government oversight should work.  I spoke up to the prison authorities as a representative of the people, and they listened.  
Rep. Rodriguez brought years of experience in justice reform to the table, and together our teamwork has yielded a very good first step.
Rodriguez and Epstein met with ADCRR officials in early November, and just learned of the results of the investigation with Tuesday's letter. Rodriguez also praised ADCRR:

The department made the correct decision. That patch and it’s images should never have been produced with taxpayer funds and the patches should never have been approved for use by sworn officers.  I am hopeful this decision is a small signal that the department understands its obligation to take all available information into consideration when it is forming policy meant to serve all the people of our state. Rep. Epstein showed real leadership and I was happy to team up with her and our caucus staff on this issue.

Epstein quipped the Department may again change its formal designation. "I look forward to more work with the AZ Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation, Re-entry and Sensitivity."  

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