‘Brady List’ appeal bill heads to the Senate

An unidentified Phoenix police officer uses a radar gun. Photo courtesy City of Phoenix Police Department | Facebook

A bill championed by the state’s largest police union that would allow officers to appeal being put on a list used by prosecutors to identify dishonest law enforcement agents is one step closer to becoming law, though without a controversial provision that sought to shroud the list in secrecy. 

The Brady List, as it’s commonly referred to, gets its name from a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court ruled that a defendant has his due process violated when prosecutors suppress evidence that is favorable to the defendant. 

In response to the ruling, prosecutors around the United States often keep lists of officers deemed not trustworthy as witnesses due to internal affairs investigations or other issues. That list must be provided to defendants and their attorneys.

House Bill 2114, introduced by Phoenix Republican Rep. John Allen, adds an appeal process for officers prior to even being put on that list as well as other provisions, such as making it so an agency can’t use the list in hiring or firing practices. 

The bill originally would have made the list a secret, but that provision was removed by lawmakers in the Arizona House of Representatives.

The Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, or PLEA, helped write the bill and is its primary advocate.

“We should not be interfering with that employer’s decision-making process,” Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Phoenix, said when debating the bill last month, adding that he is concerned that the bill will set a dangerous precedent that other entities will want the state legislature to begin to ask them to interfere in the employee-employer relationship. 

Allen said the bill simply seeks to give officers the right to review a complaint against them and to ensure that the list cannot be used against them when they seek a promotion. Officers can end up on the Brady List for actions that do not disqualify them from employment or promotion, he said. 

Critics of the bill have said that it could make prosecution more difficult and that the appeal process is not clearly outlined in the proposed law, while proponents have argued that the list is a “scarlet letter” for law enforcement officers that is difficult to remove. 

ABC15 recently spent nearly a year making public records requests in order to create a publicly searchable version of the Brady List of Arizona officers for the first time ever. 

The list, which contains 1,400 law enforcement officers, also contains the name of Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, who sits on the Public Safety Committee and voted in favor of the bill. 

Kern was fired from his job at the El Mirage Police Department, where he worked as a code enforcement officer, for lying to his supervisor. That landed him on the Brady List, the Phoenix New Times reported last year. Kern also asked Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, to pursue similar legislation last session. 

An investigation by USA Today last year found that many prosecutors across the country aren’t even properly using or tracking officers on the Brady List, sometimes leading to wrongful convictions. 

The bill passed out of the house along party lines and will next head to the Senate for consideration by the full chamber and, if passed, will head to the governor.