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Mark Spencer

Mark Spencer is the President of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association (PLEA) which represents 2500 rank and file law enforcement officers of the Phoenix Police Department. PLEA was founded in 1975. Since taking office in August, 2007, Spencer has lead PLEA through an explosive growth in members...

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Phoenix Law Enforcement Association


Carole Bartholomeaux


01/16/2011 04:41am

In labor relations, the grantors (management) focus on the company, the requestors (association) protect the workers. Public safety is unique. The “owners” of the company are the citizens not the chief. In addition, our workers knowingly risk their lives to protect the “owners.” 20 years ago, Police Chief Dennis Garrett and PLEA President Mike Petchell engaged in respectful dialogue – each understood their role. Since 2006, Phoenix Police Management has espoused two different philosophies. First, “I’m not going to let PLEA or citizens tell me when or how to do investigations.” Second, “Keep your boys (union board members) on a leash.” This is the current working context behind the “awful state of relations” between Jack Harris and PLEA.

Illegal immigration was and is a crime connected to slain PLEA members. Professionally, SB1070 impacts the work conditions of all police officers on the street. Personally, SB1070 impacts the living rooms of some police families in their homes. PLEA derives its direction directly from the members through written surveys mailed to the homes of the entire membership – NOT random robo-phone surveys to 410 citizens out of a population of 1.5 million contracted by a competing union/fraternity. In 2007 80% of PLEA members provided a mandate: support a discretionary phone call to ICE based upon reasonable suspicion. While PLEA went to DC to protect our police and community partners, Jack Harris went without permission to promote his personal agenda against SB1070. Only a person that didn’t “open their eyes” could miss the reasonable connection between SB1070 and a 30-year low crime rate in Phoenix.

When Phoenix Police Management refuses to…

1. Allow officers a discretionary phone call to ICE
2. Allow officers an optional personal rifle purchase
3. Investigate management misconduct against officers of a protected class
4. Stop the abuse of individual officers from vindictive administrative investigations

…when the Department says NO to reasonable requests that improve safety and service to the community, what’s PLEA supposed to do? PLEA could passively sit down and shut up to the detriment of our officers and neighborhoods. PLEA did this for years. In 2007 PLEA members communicated disapproval of the subservient relationship PLEA had with the Public Safety Manager and the Fire Union. The incumbent PLEA president lost election by nearly 2:1 in favor of Spencer. Like the police officers we represent, PLEA can’t stand idly by. Just like rank-and-file officers, police managers need public accountability and transparency. Our communities deserve it.

Due to contentious issues police associations must address, history has shown PLEA that membership can fluctuate. PLEA put the professional principles of the majority over the personal politics of a police manager. PLEA and other police associations have an obligation to participate in the political process – certainly if their members risk their lives on a daily basis. There can be a cost for a commitment to the rule of law. The Arizona Republic commentary provides a healthy reminder that if one is over the target, expect to take flak.


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