America's Voice En Español »

America's Voice


The Worst of Maricopa County's Sheriff Joe Arpaio


joe arpaio

As the Department of Justice’s investigation and lawsuit have shown, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s discriminatory practices and abuses of power have made him a Bull Connor for the 21st century. Below are some of the highlights–or rather, lowlights–of Arpaio’s career: terrorizing immigrants and detainees such as the mother he forced to give birth in shackles; abusing power and embracing corruption, including misusing $100 million in taxpayer money to fund his own pet projects; and ignoring serious crime in his county, including letting over 400 sex crimes cases go uninvestigated.

April 2008: Over 40,000 Un-Served Felony Warrants 
In an interview with Arpaio, an Arizona Republic reporter pointed out that the county had over 40,000 unserved felony warrants, and quoted Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon saying that Arpaio had created “a sanctuary county” for felons.

June 2008: 2,700 Lawsuits Filed Against Arpaio
Between 2004 and 2007, 2,700 lawsuits were filed against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in federal and county courts – 50 times the number of suits filed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston combined.

October 2008: Arpaio Stages Phony Murder Plot Against Himself, Accused Released for Wrongful Imprisonment, County Pays Over $1 Million to Settle
In 2004 a man was released from prison after being wrongly accused of plotting to kill Arpaio. Evidence suggested that Arpaio’s office staged the plot and the County agreed to pay over $1 million to settle the case. The County’s insurance policy paid an additional un-released amount.

October 2008: Judge Says Conditions in Arpaio’s Jails “Violate the Constitution”
A federal judge ruled in October 2008 that Sheriff Arpaio and county health officials “violated the Constitution by depriving jail inmates of adequate medical screening and care, feeding them unhealthy food and housing them in unsanitary conditions.”

Furthermore, the 2012 DOJ lawsuit against Arpaio found evidence of an endemic culture of hostility and discrimination against Latino inmates: MCSO jail employees frequently refer to Latinos as  “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” and “stupid Mexicans.”  Whole areas of a jail have been put into lockdown because of a single inmate who could not understand English—thereby inciting hostility toward the inmate—and Latino prisoners have been put into solitary confinement simply because they could not understand English.

May 2009: Arpaio Stalks Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard
On the day the Arizona Republic ran an article about an FBI investigation of Arpaio’s office that quoted Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Arpaio’s deputies went to Goddard’s home. They sat in a squad car watching the house for ninety minutes before leaving.

November 2009: Arpaio Forces Mother to Give Birth while Handcuffed to Bed
In a story reported by Telemundo in 2009, Sheriff Arpaio forced Alma Minerva Chacon to give birth while she was in shackles. Following the birth, Chacon was told that unless someone came to pick up the newborn in 72 hours, her child would be turned over to state custody.

Other cases of inhumanity toward Latina women include the story of an MCSO officer who stopped a Latina woman — a citizen of the United States and five months pregnant at the time – as she pulled into her driveway.  When he asked her to sit on the hood of her car and she refused, the officer grabbed her arms, pulled them behind her back, and slammed her, stomach first, into the vehicle three times.  MCSO has also been known to deny immigrant women detainees basic sanitary items, forcing them to remain with sheets or pants soiled from menstruation.

December 2009: Arpaio Comes Under FBI Investigation for Using his Power to Intimidate Political Opponents
After Arpaio and a political ally, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, attempted to indict local officials they saw as enemies, the FBI launched an investigation into whether Arpaio was abusing his position to target his opponents.  Arpaio and his allies were found to have filed complaints against judges who either made public statements critical of MCSO or had issued decisions that Arpaio / MCSO disliked.  The 2012 DOJ lawsuit against Arpaio further found that he once arrested a critic for engaging in protected speech and that retaliation, rather than legitimate law enforcement, motivated the action.  Andrew Thomas was disbarred in April 2012 for ethical violations.

October 2010: Violent Crime Rates Rise Under Arpaio, Fall in Rest of Arizona 
From 2002 to 2009, the rate of violent crime across the state of Arizona fell by 12%, and cities within Maricopa County saw significant decreases as well. Areas policed by Arpaio’s sheriff’s office, however, increased by 58% during this time. Meanwhile, 911 response times in Maricopa County increased significantly.

March 2011: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Blames School and Parents of Hispanic Children For Cancelled Event
After Sheriff Joe Arpaio was uninvited from reading to sixth-graders at an elementary school in Phoenix, he blasted out a nasty press release blaming “parents of Hispanic students,” as well as the school’s administration.

April 2011: Arpaio Suspected of Misspending $100M in Taxpayer Funds, Refuses to Turn Over Records
An investigation into the Maricopa County sheriff’s office discovered that Arpaio, the Bull Connor reincarnate of immigration enforcement, inappropriately spent $99.5 million from two jail funds over the last eight years to pay for other law enforcement operations—including immigration patrols.  When the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors met to discuss the investigation, Arpaio didn’t attend–he was busy leading an immigration raid on a dry cleaners in Mesa.

May 2011: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Is Too Busy Chasing Immigrants to Investigate 400 Sex Crime Cases
ABC 12 News in Arizona reported that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases over a two-year period, many of which involved children from 2 to 16 years old.   Many of these victims were the children of undocumented immigrants.  Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Arpaio was so uninterested in investigating cases when immigrants were the victims instead of the perpetrators: as Arpaio once told Larry King, his deputies arrest “very few” non-Hispanics.

July 2011: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Settles $200k in Racial Profiling Case
Arpaio paid $200,000 in a settlement to Julian and Julio Mora, a father and son who his agents zip-tied and held for three hours during a 2009 raid of the Phoenix landscaping firm Handyman Maintenance Inc., where the father worked.

This is only one example of the extreme form of racial profiling that Arpaio and MCSO regularly indulge in.  A 2011 study found that Latino drivers are up to nine times more likely to be stopped by MCSO officers than non-Latino drivers engaged in similar conduct.  In determining which cars to pull over, MCSO officers regularly use metrics like whether passengers look “disheveled” or like they don’t speak English – insufficient grounds for reasonable suspicion.

MCSO also has a track record of assuming guilt by proximity – they have been known to detain Latino persons who have been near worksites they were raiding.  MCSO has also raided—without warrant or consent—homes adjacent to homes they suspect of criminal activity.  On one such occasion, MCSO forcibly entered one such adjacent home—without any probable cause or reasonable suspicion—found no evidence of criminal activity, and still proceeded to zip-tie the residents and force them to sit on the sidewalk for more than an hour.

September 2011: Sheriff Arpaio Comes Out as Birther, Assigned “Cold Case Posse” to Obama Birth Certificate Case
As World Net Daily reported: “Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told WND [World Net Daily] he has assigned a five-member ‘Cold Case Posse’ to investigate the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate.”

September 2011: Arpaio’s Department Sued for Killing Puppy in Raid Conducted for Steven Seagal’s Reality Show
During filming of his reality show Steven Seagal: Lawman, actor Steven Seagal  went with Arpaio’s deputies to film an anti-animal cruelty raid on a cockfighting facility. Ironically, the raid resulted in the deaths of one dog and over 100 roosters, and the owner sued the sheriff’s office and Seagal.

April 2012: Top Sheriff Arpaio Ally, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, is Disbarred for Ethical Violations
Beginning in 2008, Thomas and Arpaio began using their offices to target officials who disagreed with them, or posed problems for their practices.  The two launched criminal investigations against at least 14 county officials, including all five members of the Board of Supervisors, four judges, the county’s top two appointed officials, a high-ranking attorney for the county and two private lawyers.  Evidence promised for the cases never materialized, and eventually all of the cases were dismissed.  A disciplinary panel convened by the state Supreme Court disbarred Thomas for ethical misconduct and abuse of power.

May 2012: Department of Justice Sues Sheriff Arpaio for Refusing to Reform Enforcement Practices
Following the results of an investigation that found Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office guilty of “a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing” and “a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations,” the Justice Department sued Sheriff Arpaio for refusing to reform his enforcement practices and for refusing to accept the independent oversight of an outside monitor.  The broad outlines of the charges being filed are: 1) discriminatory and unconstitutional law enforcement actions against Latinos who are frequently stopped, detained, and arrested; 2) discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited English skills; and 3) illegal retaliation against perceived critics, subjecting them to unfounded lawsuits or accusations of criminal actions.