Sheriff Joe Arpaio: America’s Toughest Sheriff

Sheriff Joe Arpaio
Sheriff Joe Arpaio

In 2012, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix and it’s surroundings), alleging widespread constitutional violations and lawless mistreatment of Latinos, solely because of their race. If these charges are true, this is not acceptable. Constitutional rights in this country are for everybody.

Among other things, he and his department were accused of the following things:

  1. Forcing Latina Women To Sleep In Their Own Menstrual Blood
  2. Assaulting Pregnant Latina Woman
  3. Stalking Latina Women
  4. Criminalizing Being A Latino
  5. Criminalizing Living Next To The Wrong People
  6. Ignoring Rape of Latina Women and Girls
  7. Widespread Use Of Racial Slurs
  8. Widespread Racial Profiling
  9. Random, Unlawful Detention Of Latinos
  10. Group Punishments For Latinos

You can  read the details at ThinkProgress.

That’s not all. “Sheriff Joe” retaliates.

In addition to this, the suit complained about “Arpaio’s practice of retaliating against critics and opponents, be they judges, prosecutors, politicians, or average citizens.” (Phoenix New Times) How Napoleonic can a desert sheriff be? That is absolutely, totally, completely, categorically unacceptable. No ifs and/or buts. A nation that allows law enforcement officials to retaliate against people who disagree with their tactics will not long remain a democracy.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) had previously filed suit against him for some of the same practices. The two suits ran concurrently, but the ACLU got to court first, won their case, and got a court order requiring the violations to stop:

In 2013, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow found Arpaio and the MCSO guilty of widespread racial profiling against Latinos and ordered a litany of reforms intended to prevent a recurrence of this civil rights disaster under Arpaio’s watch.

Phoenix New Times

MCSO is Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. The DOJ’s case is still pending, but they’ve already obtained additional judgement on the parts of their case that overlapped the ACLU case. I am no lawyer, but it seems likely they’ll win the rest of their complaint against Arpaio. The DOJ case is scheduled for August 10 and estimated to take 15 days. I’ll be watching from my recliner.

“Sheriff Joe” is tough.

This is the same “Sheriff Joe” who carried prisoners out into  the desert a few years ago and made them live in tents under the sun in 115º weather. Just to show he was tough.

He’s the same “Sheriff Joe” who took it upon himself to send deputies to Hawaii to investigate whether or not President Obama was actually born there and concluded his birth certificate “didn’t look right.”

He’s the same “Sheriff Joe” who was found guilty of racial profiling in federal court and had a monitor appointed to oversee his department’s operations. His jails have twice been ruled unconstitutional, and the DOJ has concluded that he oversaw the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history.

He’s the same “Sheriff Joe” who refused to cooperate with the DOJ’s investigation until required to do so by a Federal Court, and it’s estimated he’ll have spent $56 million dollars of the county’s money defending himself against these two lawsuits instead of just agreeing not to do these illegal things any more. (After all, it’s  not his money he’s spending.)

He styles himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” but he may be America’s most arrogant sheriff. He’s been re-elected every four years since 1992. I don’t know why. Maybe those folks have had their brains baked by the sun. (Remember the 115º afternoons?)

I’m not one who thinks life in jail should be comfortable, but it should be Constitutional. Neither do I oppose strict enforcement of the law; but it, too, should be Constitutional. I do oppose cruelty, illegal searches and arrests, and other violations of the Constitution. We are one nation under the Constitution of the United States of America. If that’s not true any more, American exceptionalism is obsolete.

Still more “Sheriff Joe”

Tomorrow, the first Sunday after nine black churchgoers were murdered by a white man in South Carolina, this bigot sheriff has vowed to send armed, volunteer posse members into each of 60 mainly black churches in the Phoenix area, whether they want the “protection” or not. And some of them don’t.

There might actually be a need for something like this; but I’m not sure I’d want a bunch of his armed, probably mostly white, open-carry fanatics guarding my clubhouse, either.

Sheriff Joe and any others like him must go. We can’t afford to have them in offices of authority.



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