As an American, I find myself increasingly at odds- philosophically- with the warlord in charge of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Although an elected official, Sheriff Arpaio seems to be going out of his way to emulate the tactics of some of the more villainous despots of the 20th Century. There are published reports that MCSO deputies have harassed and intimidated journalists who have reported less than flattering things about the Sheriff. He routinely brings unsubstantiated charges against elected officials and judges who displease him in any way. He reportedly threatened the mayor of Guadalupe after she complained about a raid on a Catholic church there. MCSO personnel repeatedly conduct operations within the jurisdiction of other cities. There have been reported beatings of prisoners in the jails under his control, and several prisoners have died in custody. Note that not everyone in jail has been convicted of any crime. The Maricopa County Jail is the holding area for many local jurisdictions, and many people are held there pending bail or arraignment.
His most recent brawl with local authorities happened when one of his deputies took some paperwork from the Defense Attorney’s desk … in the middle of court … on camera. The judge tried to let it slide if the deputy would apologize, but Sheriff Joe said, “No.” The judge ordered the deputy held for contempt, and MCSO staged a sick-out. That deputy was not punished, and still has not been submitted to the jurisdiction of the court.
For all his bluster about working for the people of Maricopa County, he’s costing them a ton of money. From Wikipedia:
From 2004 through November 2007, Arpaio was the target of 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts, with more than $50 million in claims being filed, 50 times as many prison-conditions lawsuits as the New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined.
That’s in addition to the security precautions he’s taken, including working out of an office building in lieu of the jail or courthouse- all at taxpayer expense.
While gathering information for this article, I found myself with a profoundly unpleasant feeling. I actually asked myself if publishing this commentary might cause problems to one of my relatives who lives and works within the MCSO sphere of influence. Having had this deeply un-American thought, I immediately shrugged it off and commenced to hunting and pecking away at the keyboard. It is shameful that any public official in this country can cause such questions to be asked, and is itself a denunciation of Sheriff Arpaio and his tactics.
How does this stereotypical TV villain get away with all of this? Part of it is the older voters in the county. He claims to be tough on crime, and a lot of older folks eat that up. He also has a lot of political pull with the state and local governments- probably because he has “dirt” on various politicos. Worse still, he’s been trying to brand himself as “America’s Sheriff”, and this has endeared him to a lot of right-wing fanatics with more partisan zeal than intellectual capacity. Any denunciation of Arpaio results in the loud-and-loonie wing of the conservative movement circling the wagons and doing everything possible to protect him. I have two words for those people:
You aren’t helping your own cause by getting mixed up with the manifold perfidies of Joe Arpaio and his sturmtruppen at the MCSO. The FBI is already investigating him for abuse of power and other sins, and the latest polls show his approval ratings have dropped to around 35%. Not exactly a rising star. In addition, Arpaio should be the antithesis of all the conservatives stand for. He aggressively intrudes his government power into private affairs and exemplifies the power of the State without a leash. Conservatives should be vilifying this man, not protecting him.
Alas, partisan politics seems to trump common sense and even self-interest. For those of you unsure what life would be like without the protection from the government guaranteed (NOT granted) by the Constitution, look no farther than Maricopa County, Arizona. Right here in the USA.
Perhaps someone should tell Sheriff Arpaio about the Battle of Athens. He’d probably be better off if the Feds got him.
Current status: Irked
Current music: Do It Again by Steely Dan