More than 1,800 law enforcement officials are now on “Brady” lists across Arizona, according to an unprecedented database compiled by ABC15.
The number is a significant increase from two years ago.
In 2020, there was 1,400 names on the lists, which are used by prosecutors to track officers with a history of dishonesty, criminal activity, and other integrity concerns.
The earliest “Brady” lists in Arizona were started in the early 2000s.
“So over 20 years, there’s about 1,400 officers on Brady lists statewide. And then in 2 years, it jumps an additional 400, that’s a huge number,” said Jared Keenan, an attorney with ACLU Arizona. “That increase would not have occurred except for increase public pressure, media pressure, and litigation pressure.”
In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court in Brady v. Maryland ruled that police and prosecutors cannot withhold exculpatory evidence, including past dishonesty and other types of misconduct by officers.
Through a series of public record requests, ABC15 first requested Brady lists from every county attorney's office in the state as part of its “Full Disclosure” investigation in 2020. The station compiled the information to publish the only searchable database of its kind.
ABC15’s updated Brady database is current as of March 2022.
The 1,800 names represent current and past law enforcement officials. Hundreds of the officers are still on the force.
The state’s largest law enforcement agency, the Phoenix Police Department, has the most officers on a “Brady” list with more than 460 (past and present).
The increase of officers placed on county Brady lists in recent years is a positive, according to defense attorneys. But legal experts said the true number of officers who belong is much higher.
“Even with that increase, it should be clear that this is almost certainly an under-count of the officers that should be on a Brady list,” Keenan said.
ABC15 has continued to discover law enforcement officials with a history of documented lies and other integrity issues who are not on a Brady list.
Pinal County Sheriff’s Deputy Jeffrey McElwain is a recent example.
McElwain was disciplined twice in 2020 after a pair of internal investigations outlined six different incidents of poor work performance and dishonesty.
In one case, McElwain was subject to a stay-at-home order for a work-related COVID-19 exposure. But he falsified radio logs to go work a secondary off-duty job, according to his personnel file.
PCSO investigators also said he was dishonest during the internal probe.
McElwain, who often starred on the television show “Live PD,” was recommended for termination but ultimately kept his job after serving multiple suspensions.
Defense attorneys involved in Pinal County cases said information and records related to McElwain’s past dishonesty has not been disclosed by prosecutors.
A spokesperson for the Pinal County Attorney's Office sent ABC15 the following written statement.
"Our Law Enforcement Integrity Committee ("Committee") met in March to review the file and Deputy McElwain's response to consider placement on the 'Brady List.' However, prior to the completion of his IA case, all staff had been provided access to the reports and instructed to personally review and disclose Dep. McElwain's history in cases in which he was directly involved. Due to an administrative oversight, Dep. McElwain's name was not formally placed on the Brady List. However, the lack of his name formally appearing on the Brady List has created no substantive difference in how his cases are handled. The information and directive remains in our system and PCAO has several procedures in place to ensure the defendant is aware of all relevant IAs prior to trial. In fact, in some cases more favorable plea offers have been offered when he is the sole or primary witness. Upon identifying the oversight, the Committee will reconsider formally placing his name on the Brady List at an upcoming meeting. It should be noted, this office is confident that no trials involving Dep. McElwain have proceeded forward in which a Brady violation occurred."
Following ABC15’s “Full Disclosure” investigation, a coalition of Arizona prosecutors published a searchable database of Brady list officers in late 2020.
At first, Arizona Prosecuting Attorney’s Advisory Council’s (APAAC) “statewide officer-integrity database” didn’t include half of the state’s prosecutorial agencies. The number of participating agencies has grown but is still missing a handful of county attorney’s offices, records show.
Contact ABC15 Chief Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.