– violations charged include “conduct that jeopardizes public trust in law enforcement”
– unclear why city’s 2014 notice of rule violations not acted on sooner
PHOENIX – After a two year delay, the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training (AZPOST) board voted Wednesday that the on-duty intoxication of Charles “Charlie” Austin in 2014 is grounds for initiating the process by which the one-time Bisbee sergeant may be permanently prevented from working as a police officer. AZPOST certifies all police officers within the state.
Documents released by AZPOSTshow Austin is accused of having a .179% blood alcohol content on October 6, 2014 while on-duty. Austin was placed on administrative leave the next day, after which he “resigned in lieu of termination.” Bisbee PD then notified AZPOST that Austin’s resignation involved “conduct that may violate AZ POST rules.”
Those rules include being on-duty while under the influence of liquor, conduct that jeopardizes public trust in law enforcement, and malfeasance or misfeasance in office. Although Austin, age 37, has not worked as an officer since 2014, the board did not take action on reviewing his certification at that time. There is no mention in the case overview presented to the board as to why there was a two year delay.
The overview does address several issues involving Austin’s use of alcohol in 2014, including the October 6 incident in which Austin called sergeant Robert Coronado to advise that he “would not be in attendance at a staff briefing due to plumbing problems at his residence.” But Austin said he would be available to respond to calls.
The phone call prompted police chief Benjamin Reyna and sergeant Albert Echave to go to Austin’s house to check on the officer. When Reyna and Echave went inside the house they found there were no plumbing issues. They also found Austin “in uniform and he appeared to be intoxicated” with his firearm and gunbelt nearby. He submitted to a portable breath test, which “revealed Officer Austin’s blood alcohol content to be .179%.”
The case overview also notes that on July 30 Austin showed up at the Bisbee police station to complete some paperwork while off-duty. Co-workers noticed his “slurred speech, unsteady balance, odor of intoxicating beverage, and bloodshot/watery eyes,” and it was determined he had a blood alcohol concentration of .161%. That incident resulted in Austin being demoted from sergeant to patrol officer and suspended without pay for seven days.
According to AZPOST documents, Austin’s supervisors were aware of “numerous reports in the months prior that Officer Austin was appearing in public in various states of intoxication” as well as reports of “disturbing social media posts” by Austin. There was also an unconfirmed report that Austin had operated “a vehicle under the influence” with a child in the vehicle.
Two weeks after resigning, Austin was the subject of a protective order issued by Bisbee Justice of the Peace David Morales. The order – on behalf of an adult and three minors – was in-force until October 22, 2015.
AZPOST will send Austin written notification of the decision to initiate proceeding; if he does not challenge the action the board is likely to vote in January whether to formally suspend or revoke his certification. A revocation would be permanent
Austin is the nephew of Charles E. Austin, longtime chief of the Douglas Police Dept. who died earlier this year following a 34 year law enforcement career.
Contact reporter Terri Jo Neff at 520-508-3660 and firstname.lastname@example.org