Mark Spencer, PLEA President, and the Dark Spots on His Career Record

from PLEA
Spencer has his own agenda when it comes to the issue of immigration

In response to my request for a comment from the Phoenix Police Department concerning Phoenix Law Enforcement Association President Mark Spencer's challenge to the current Operations Order 1.4.3, PPD spokesman James Holmes got back to me yesterday. His comment follows below. But first a little background.

As I discussed in this week's column item "Union Blue," Spencer recently went on a ride-along with two cops working the area near 36th Street and Thomas Road, where day-laborers congregate in a parking lot shared by Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and other businesses.

On July 14, Spencer arrested Alvaro Grijalva, who admitted that he was there looking for work, and that he was in the country illegally. Spencer didn't take Grijalva in to be booked. Instead, he called Immigration and Customs Enforcement. ICE agreed to take Grijalva, and Spencer transported Grijalva to ICE after running the whole thing by a Phoenix Police sergeant on duty.

Spencer then called his wing-nut buddy J.D. Hayworth, afternoon saliva jockey for conservative radio station KFYI 550 AM. On the air, Hayworth crudely excoriated the PPD's higher-ups for not having all their cops roust illegals as Spencer did in this case. The effect would be to turn Phoenix cops into immigration enforcers, similar to MCSO deputies during an anti-illegal sweep.

I believe that Spencer went out that day looking to test the limits of the operations order, though he denies this is the case. See, Spencer is a nativist activist, with a thinly-veiled personal agenda when it comes to immigration. This is not the first time he's exploited xenophobia and helped Mexican bashers in this town sow the seeds of discord. And likely, it won't be the last.

This current arrest is a sensitive matter, because the new operations order was forged during the 2007 Pruitt's standoff, and the PPD is not looking to return to that bit of ugliness, which could have easily turned violent with minutemen and pro-immigration activists facing off against each other.

So the PPD's measured response was not a surprise:

"The Phoenix Police Department is looking into that investigation," said Holmes, "and into that arrest. At this point, they're reviewing the report and procedures in the report to ensure was in accordance with our operations orders. We just don't have a conclusion about it at this time."

In other words, Spencer's tossed a vial of nitro into their laps, and they're trying to figure out how to handle it without an explosion. 

A recent Arizona Republic profile of Spencer, who's just been awarded another term as PLEA President after running unopposed, portrays him as a Bible-thumpin', gun-totin' aw-shucks sort of guy.

The article is filled with lines like this one:

"Spencer insists that, in his day job, he speaks as a cop, not a pastor, although his moral compass `comes from the power of Jesus Christ.'"

That's just swell. But did the author of that drivel bother to pull Spencer's personnel file? I did. And Spencer's career has not been without blemish. Several incidents in his earlier days on the force speak to what might be seen as a tendency to act rashly and fail to follow PPD guidelines: Kinda like he did on July 14 in making an arrest that may have been in violation of Operations Order 1.4.3, which states that, "Federal immigration law...will not be utilized as the sole cause for a stop or contact."

For example, in a September 21, 1993 incident, Spencer was admonished for the way in which he dealt with prisoners on a felony stop.

"You failed to use appropriate progressive force," reads the review, "with two prisoners when you grabbed them by the hair, pulled them from their vehicle, and continued to pull them as they crawled on their hands and knees approximately 20 feet to a patrol car. You also told one of the prisoners to `crawl like a dog.'"

For the "crawl like a dog" episode, Spencer was docked 24 hours pay.

Going back a little further, there was a 1991 incident where Spencer pointed a shotgun out of a moving car at another vehicle. Pointing a gun out of a moving car is a no-no. He was again disciplined.

In 1990, he ran up on a suspect by himself with his gun drawn, instead of waiting for backup. When he pushed the suspect with one hand, the suspect pushed back and his gun was discharged accidentally. No one was hurt. There's no record of him being punished for this.

Finally, in 1988, he "exhibited rude and unprofessional behavior while making a traffic stop" and wrote the driver a ticket for no registration when the driver didn't produce it fast enough. He also threatened to take the driver to jail.

In most of these cases, Spencer, who has been with the PPD for more than 20 years, said he would do things differently today. He rationalized the gun out of the moving car, pointing out that the guy he was after was a bank robber, and that at least one high-level PPD assistant chief agreed with his action. On the accidental discharge of his gun, he had no quibble. For the "crawl like a dog" incident, he had an interesting explanation.

"The point behind it was," explained Spencer, "to control the prisoner without causing injury. He was failing to move back in my direction, and it would have been inappropriate for me to drag him across asphalt and to convey how I wanted him to move with me. That was the statement that I made. The department found that that use of force was out of policy. I was subsequently disciplined for it."

In general, Spencer claimed not to mind the discipline.

"Discipline is there to create behavior," he told me. "And I think certainly improvement is always something we should seek, whether it be a police officer or a New Times reporter."

It may be a bit unfair to knock Spencer for incidents that occurred earlier in his career. However, his activities in challenging Operations Order 1.4.3 deserve similar scrutiny, and in my opinion, punishment, despite Spencer's current position as the PPD union rep. That's because his provocation is potentially as or more dangerous than the discharge of that weapon so long ago, particularly should it result in another Pruitt's standoff.

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Thanks for the information.

I'm waiting for the day when Diane Brennan kicks the crap out of him on air. I think she's getting close.

Web DesignThere are times it seems she just can't take the buffoon!


Thanks for the information.

I'm waiting for the day when Diane Brennan kicks the crap out of him on air. I think she's getting close.

Web DesignThere are times it seems she just can't take the buffoon!


So refreshing to see that the Phoenix Police Officers Union (PLEA) finally figured out that there is a law enforcement code of ethics. (See the PLEA Recap monthly magazine, May 2011 page 4.)  PLEA leadership is apparently surprised that their members are being held accountable to compliance with the code.  Amazing that they never read the code before.  Perhaps now they can serve the taxpayers instead of themselves.

PLEA recap, May 2011:

Arizona Peace Officers Code of Ethics, R13-4-105. Minimum Qualifications for Appointment:


There is a constitutional guarantee of freedom from unwarranted searches in this Country. That means that if there is no probable cause for an officer of the State to inquire about you, he has no right to demand identification. The conservatives cry about government intrusion all the time but in the Gates case they side with the government.

Gates' account of the events first appeared in The Root on July 20. According to the statement, Gates saw Crowley at the door as he was speaking to the Harvard Real Estate Office to have his front door fixed. When he opened the front door, Crowley immediately asked him to step outside. Gates did not comply and asked Crowley why he was there. When told that Crowley was a police officer investigating a reported breaking and entering, Gates replied that it was his house, and he was a Harvard faculty member. Crowley asked Gates whether he could prove it; Gates told him he could, and turned to go to the kitchen to fetch his wallet. Crowley followed him into the house. Gates then handed Crowley his Harvard University ID and a current driver's license, both including his photograph, the license also giving his address. [15]

Gates then asked Crowley for his name and badge number, but Crowley did not respond. Following repeated requests for Crowley's name and badge number, the officer left the kitchen; Gates followed him to the front door. As he stepped out the front door and asked the other officers for Crowley's name and badge number, Crowley said, "Thank you for accommodating my earlier request," and arrested Gates on his front porch.

Bigotry is what we're talking about here - not racism. One can be a bigot but not be a "racist." Racism being a much more committed and focused application of bigotry into united action against one "perceived" race or another with a defined set of behaviors.

While the Boston Police Department did have a CANCER in it in the form of bigotry, I don't think it rose to the level of organized racism.

We have yet to see if the federal government investigators feel that what Arpaio is doing (racial profiling) is actual racism or just your garden variety ignorant bigtory like that employed in the Gates matter.


you sound like joe clure (spencer's butt buddy) ?


u hit this right on the head except that he was never a"real" street cop....he was always a guy that showed up.....a few minutes after the real cops got things under control.


don't know that Mr. Spencer's wife is an employee of MCSO. But if she is, and she condones his actions, she is certainly in the right place for now.

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