PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - The state agency that certifies law enforcement members to serve in Arizona has been reviewing a “plethora” of cases involving officers having sex on duty. One of the cases put an elected official’s career on the line.
In the Arizona Peace Office Standards and Training (AZPOST) board meeting last month, a compliance specialist presented details of a case in which William Ponce was investigated for claims he had sex with a woman while on duty. At the time, Ponce was the chief of the Colorado River Indian Tribes Police Department. In November he was elected as the La Paz County Sheriff.
“A typical rendezvous would entail meeting with him and having oral sex most of the time while Ponce was in uniform an arrived in a CRIT police vehicle,” the specialist read in the meeting. “Most of the sexual activity occurred at her residence while Ponce was on duty.”
The claims were made by an unidentified woman and detailed in a 2015 internal affairs investigation conducted by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. According to records obtained by Arizona’s Family, the investigation was launched when an officer who was being fired for mishandling evidenced argued due process violations. Throughout the course of the investigation, details emerged of a prior relationship between the officer’s girlfriend and then-Chief Ponce.
Investigators concluded the internal affairs investigation by finding the officer’s claim of due process violation was unsubstantiated. However, according to the documents, investigators said Ponce was guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer.
“Obviously there were some things that were truths in this case. There was a lot of things that weren’t and misrepresented,” says Ponce who spoke about the case exclusively with Arizona’s Family.
Ponce disputes some of the claims made by the woman interviewed for the internal affairs investigation. His objections are also detailed in the 2015 report. According to the documents, Ponce admitted to meeting with the woman twice while on-duty, but he denied having sex with her. According to the report, Ponce told investigators the two kissed and fondled each other.
Ponce believes the 2015 investigation was dug up by a political opponent ahead of the November election. That may be true. According to AZPOST Executive Director Matt Giordano, the board reviews substantiated misconduct investigations when they are brought to the attention of AZPOST.
“They looked for anything they could to try to create negative light on me,” says Ponce.
In the January 20 AZPOST board discussion, officials hint at an even larger problem with officers having sex on duty. “Over the last year we've had a plethora of these types of cases,” said one meeting participant. “And we're really trying to find out where the board would like us to go with these.”
Arizona’s Family has requested AZPOST records of cases involving officers having sex on duty.
Ponce says he believes misconduct cases involving sexual activity should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. “This is something that kind of continues to rear its head within the law enforcement community,” says Ponce. “People don’t like to discuss or talk about it but it has to be discussed at some point, obviously.”
Ponce says he has grown as a leader and says trust from the community is essential to his new role as La Paz County sheriff. He wants to put the 2015 internal investigation behind him. “Honestly, you know, sometimes you get into situations, and later on you look back and you’re like, yeah I wish I didn't make that decision,” says Ponce.