CBS 5 News investigates Arizona DOC arrests - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU


CBS 5 News investigates Arizona DOC arrests

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Anthony Rinaldi Anthony Rinaldi

The thousands of men and women who work for the Arizona Department of Corrections are responsible for keeping the peace in prisons and making sure inmates don't break any laws, but it turns out those officers aren't exactly angels themselves.

CBS 5 News has uncovered hundreds of disturbing reports detailing drunk driving, domestic violence and child abuse, all committed by DOC employees.

Officers like Miguel Herrera, who, according to the DOC report, grabbed his girlfriend by her arms, pushed her onto the couch and punched her several times before trying to choke her. His punishment was a 40-hour suspension without pay.

Winslow police said Officer Jason Johnson grabbed his 14-year-old stepson and slammed him into a wall. He also received a week's unpaid vacation.

Yuma police said Officer Ruben Llamas hit his wife in the face and threw her onto the bed in front of their 1-year-old son. His punishment was a 40-hour suspension without pay.

And it's not just officers, Maj. Kenneth Hewett was arrested for child abuse. Police said he spanked his 12-year-old son 30 times with a wooden board, so hard he was badly bruised. Hewett was transferred, he's now an executive staff assistant waiting for his retirement and all the benefits that go with it.

Department of Corrections data showed there are about 11 officers arrested each month, that about 1.5 percent of all their employees are arrested each year.

This is a story we started digging into back in January. It's taken months to get the information we asked for. DOC Director Charles Ryan refused requests by CBS 5 News to speak with us about the problems within the Department, but coincidentally Ryan wrote a blog post about the very same topic just a few weeks after our initial request.

In the blog Ryan writes, "This concerns me greatly. The behavior of the few employees who choose to involve themselves in illegal activity significantly impacts the public's perception of the law-abiding employees of this agency."

"It's about power, and many people in power don't need more power but it's the people who are already sick. There's a real danger in terms of the level of violence could escalate," said Sojourner Center Associate Director Richard Geasland.

Look no further than Anthony Rinaldi. Police said the DOC corrections officer murdered his wife while her 7- and 1-year-old kids were in the house. According to investigators, he shot her three times. He told police he "snapped" and his military training kicked in.

Rinaldi didn't have any write ups on his DOC file.

The Department of Corrections is going to start training its staff members on correctional fatigue, showing them options for dealing with stresses on and off the job. The department is reviewing its policy on discipline for arrests.

Copyright 2013 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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