By Amy Silverman
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Sheriff Joe Arpaio loves to point out that his fame has spread beyond the United States, but increasingly, that international scrutiny is less than complimentary.
New Times earlier described a London magazine cover story which ridiculed "the Lion of Metz" for his self-promoting (Arpaio brags that he served in the military during the Korean War; he's less apt to add that he spent his time not actually in Korea but in Metz, France).
The latest to scrutinize Arpaio is German television. In a documentary produced by ARD, one of the country's oldest networks, Arpaio is portrayed as a small-minded man who uses medieval methods of imprisonment for the sake of publicity.
The 30-minute program opens with the early-morning rousting of a female chain gang, the Arpaio innovation that has brought journalists flocking from around the world. It's followed by Arpaio giving his standard checklist of jail deprivations--no coffee, girlie magazines, etc.--while walking in Tent City.
When an inmate asks why they can't have a basketball court, Arpaio answers that he doesn't give them such things because he doesn't want to. "I'm the one who calls the shots in here," Arpaio barks.
(In two sworn depositions that Arpaio has had to endure in lawsuits against his office--one by an inmate, one by a former employee--Arpaio has displayed a much different attitude, saying that he's a hands-off administrator who lets his staff make most of his policy decisions.)
The crew later followed him to an appearance at KFYI radio. A listener asked Arpaio about Richard Post, the paraplegic who New Timesreported was treated so roughly by detention officers that his single night in jail left Post with a broken neck. Arpaio dismissed her call, saying that his officers did nothing wrong, but the German crew did what no local TV news organization has: It let Post tell his story.
Following Post's account of his treatment, the crew revisited the female chain gang, and the narrator remarked how surprising it was that such medieval techniques existed in a prosperous city.
The crew then followed Arpaio to another chain-gang operation and caught him contradicting himself. Arpaio had admitted earlier that he had had to cancel the male chain-gang program following the November 17 Tent City riots.
But when two of the women on his chain gang complained that they were pawns in Arpaio's publicity campaign, Arpaio answered that he operated female chain gangs to avoid discrimination. He made men work on chain gangs, he told the women, so he had to make women submit to it as well.