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DPS answers questions for KTAR, but not Arizona Mirror

By: and - April 24, 2019 1:53 pm

A screenshot from an Arizona Department of Public Safety safety bulletin about issues discovered with the duty sidearm issued to all troopers.

Arizona Department of Public Safety spokesman Trooper Kameron Lee told KTAR on Tuesday that all of the agency’s pistols with major flaws had been fixed by Fabrique Nationale Herstal, the company that manufactured the guns

That came as a surprise to us, as we had specifically asked DPS in November 2018 what had been done by the department in response to it discovering in August 2018 that the FNS 9 pistols that are the standard sidearm for every DPS trooper had a defect that meant they could fire unexpectedly – or not fire at all.

During the course of reporting that story, which was published the day before Lee gave his statement to KTAR, DPS either failed to answer or gave vague answers to a number of questions related to the issues with the FNS guns and what DPS was doing about it.

And it seems unlikely that DPS will provide those answers to the Mirror any time soon: The agency’s longtime chief spokesman, Bart Graves, said DPS’s five-person public affairs staff would no longer answer our questions.

“We have provided you voluminous amounts of information and have answered your questions both verbally and in writing, therefore we now consider the matter to be closed,” Graves wrote in an email responding to the Mirror’s request for an update on questions posed to the agency four days earlier.

Instead, Graves said the Mirror “was welcome to” file public records requests for any other information it sought from DPS.

Our reply to that email seeking clarification on whether the agency was planning to require a records request to obtain answers to informational questions went unanswered.

In the more than five months that we reported on this story, DPS repeatedly delayed answering our questions and failed to fully answer them, if it answered them at all. At one point, it took the agency 42 days to answer six questions.

The Mirror’s initial questions to the agency were posed back on Nov. 14, and we didn’t receive an answer until 21 days later. And that response didn’t acknowledge that DPS had discovered the flaw in the gun and warned its troopers about it, but instead referred us to a statement issued by the gun manufacturer earlier this year.

Additionally, the records department has told the Mirror that emails requested in relation to the issue with the pistols would take 12 months to provide. This is despite a ruling that involved DPS in which the Arizona Court of Appeals determined that DPS violated state law when it waited four months to fulfill a records request.

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Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Jerod MacDonald-Evoy

Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.