Records shed no light on investigation into claims that officers pocketed items in busts

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PHOENIX — A trove of records released Thursday by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office provides a window into disciplinary problems among sheriff's employees, but sheds no light on investigations into claims that officers pocketed items confiscated in traffic stops and safe-house busts.

Internal-affairs documents detailed disciplinary problems for Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz, who was arrested a year ago after investigators found a stash of drugs, evidence bags from old cases and hundreds of IDs belonging to other people inside his home.

Still, the records don't offer any details on the origins of those items or whether they had any connection to other officers.

The discoveries at Armendariz's home breathed new life into to a racial profiling case that Arpaio lost two years ago. Among the items found in the house were hundreds of hours of video-recorded traffic stops that were withheld in the profiling case.

The case's judge has criticized Arpaio's office for conducting inadequate internal investigations into wrongdoing by officers, including an allegation that Armendariz was shaking down immigrants who were in the country illegally.

Armendariz told investigators he was innocent, implicated his former smuggling-squad colleagues in unspecified wrongdoing, quit his job and killed himself by hanging.

An attorney representing Arpaio in the profiling case has said Armendariz was an aberration and doesn't represent the agency's culture.

Another former officer said in an unrelated hearing last summer that it was routine for officers to pocket items in traffic stops and safe-house busts.

The records released Thursday came from internal investigations that sprang out of the examination into Armendariz and represent only a portion of the documents gathered in those reviews.

The documents show officers were investigated for failing to ask pulled-over motorists for their driver's licenses, not confiscating license plates from drivers without insurance and failing to tell drivers who were stopped which laws they broke.

The only direct mention in the records about Armendariz's house was an investigation into whether three sheriff's employees misplaced, improperly packaged and stored evidence from the home before it was brought to a property warehouse. No other details into the evidence-handling investigation were provided.

Armendariz underwent an internal investigation for having used a Taser three times on an underage drinker while working off-duty security at a prom two years ago at a Tempe high school.

A report said Armendariz used the stun gun after the youth, who was handcuffed and in the back seat of the officer's vehicle, kicked a window inside the vehicle and tried to spit on the officer.

Armendariz, who was wearing his uniform, opened up the door and used the stun gun, telling the youth, "Do it again."

The officer then used the Taser two more times on the youth. An investigator said subsequent use of the Taser was "nothing more than an assault," according to the records.

Armendariz was never charged with a crime arising from the youth's arrest.

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