By Francisco Lara
If you’ve been following any of the local Arizona news lately, there’s been a name almost without fail in every front page: Joe Arpaio. Recently, thought, he hasn’t been making headlines about pink underwear or his crusade against undocumented immigrants. He’s making headlines about how wretchedly horrible he is at his job.
“Now wait a second, Francisco, didn’t you just write a piece on how people should focus on the issues instead of the man? Aren’t you holding Sheriff Joe up to a higher standard than another purported screw-up – Eric Holder?” an attentive reader might ask.
It’s a fair point. Maybe Joe Arpaio really is the victim of a protracted political witch hunt. Maybe, he just needs to tweak his job performance a little bit and he’ll be doing his job well, despite the detractors. He sure seems to think so. He’s blaming everyone from President Obama to Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.
So why is Arpaio making so many headlines as of late?
Recently he has found himself under fire due to accusations of rampant racial profiling and discrimination in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Aside from the obvious moral reprobation the claims elicit, the accusations could have serious monetary implications for the county. According to the Maricopa Board of Supervisor’s attorney, if the federal government finds the county in violation of civil rights legislation, it stands to lose $113 million in federal funding.
The Department of Justice, who has actually not filed suit on racial discrimination just yet, is the one getting the most attention. They’re suing the MCSO for not allowing them access to all records and facilities in relation to a civil-rights investigation the Feds have been running since 2009. It’s pretty clear they are going to sue him eventually for civil-rights violations, especially after the stinging report the DoJ published documenting widespread abuses by the Sheriff’s Office, but for now they’ll settle for getting all the evidence. I should add that the report caused the Department of Homeland Security to strip Arpaio of his ability to enforce immigration law.
But wait, a minute that’s it? He’s getting all this bad press because he’s being accused of racial discrimination by the Department of Justice which Obama runs? If you’re not making enemies, then you’re not doing your job. Sheriff Joe must be doing a fine job then.
No, it doesn’t stop there. Another is a group of five Latino clients claiming they were subjected to illegal searches and seizures based on the color of their skin. This group was just awarded class-action status, allowing any person who believes they were detained or questioned for similar reasons by Arpaio’s deputies to join the suit.
They’re probably just mad he caught them speeding.
Ok then, how about this? The MCSO is the target of a wrongful death suit in the case of man who died in a holding cell of a Phoenix jail. The man, Ernest Atencio , was found unresponsive in his cell after being brutally restrained and tazed by 6 or 7 deputies. He was perfectly fine before they got to him; he died on December 21st when he was taken off life support. You can see the video right here.
What else you got?
In a story by AP, Sheriff Joe’s office is accused of failing to investigate over 400 sex crimes from 2005 to 2007. Read what an El Mirage detective had to say about the good Sheriff’s work in his town:
“In El Mirage alone, where Arpaio’s office was providing contract police services, officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations — with victims as young as 2 — in which the sheriff’s office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases.”
Long-time supporters of the Sheriff have started to keep their distance. Even, Senator John McCain has publicly expressed his indignation at the shoddy police work.
He used a tank to raid a one-man cockfighting operation for Steven Seagal’s show? They killed a puppy.
Sheriff Joe isn’t making the news or being targeted for investigation because people disagree with him; He’s making the news because he’s really bad at his job, and we know for a fact that he’s the one screwing up. Watching someone fall from grace right before your eyes makes for a good story, or if he’s with Steven Seagal, good TV.
P.S – For the record, the man who screwed up Fast and Furious did get fired. Kenneth Melson is no longer head of the ATF.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Francisco Lara. They in no way represent the opinions of the Arizona Model United Nations.This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.