In the Crosshairs

County lawmen boffing hookers isn't Sheriff Joe's only problem. Fed up with his thuggery, Arpaio's own political party has targeted him for defeat

The joke going around is, "At least that's what they're telling their wives."

The Weide gaffe and Hookergate in Hooterville were incidents that the sheriff's diligent Public Information Office just couldn't contain. Through the years, the office has worked hard to do the opposite of what taxpayers employ it to do. Instead of keeping us informed, it does everything in its power to keep us from finding out about the scope of Arpaio's back-slapping on the public dime and about all the Keystone Kops flubs by Joe, his posse and his deputies.

What it bombards us with is Arpaio's tough-guy image.

Gilbert Republican District 22 chairman Bill Norton says 
Arpaio embarrassed the Republican party when he 
backed Democrat Janet Napolitano for governor.
Jackie Mercandetti
Gilbert Republican District 22 chairman Bill Norton says Arpaio embarrassed the Republican party when he backed Democrat Janet Napolitano for governor.
Republican Fred Taylor says Arpaio uses heavy-handed 
tactics to squelch political opponents. "It's scary," says 
the former law enforcement aide to Governor Fife Symington.
Jackie Mercandetti
Republican Fred Taylor says Arpaio uses heavy-handed tactics to squelch political opponents. "It's scary," says the former law enforcement aide to Governor Fife Symington.

The architect of that slick fabrication is former television reporter Lisa Allen MacPherson, who cranks out one publicity stunt after another to keep Arpaio's scowling image on the small screen as much as possible.

"Joe Arpaio loves the media," says MacPherson, who moves back and forth between Phoenix and her husband's home in San Diego. "He likes being on TV. He loves it! He loves to communicate with his public through the media."

Whether it's chain gangs, the pink underwear he makes inmates wear, black-and-white-striped jumpsuits, Joe bobblehead dolls or forcing juvenile offenders to bury the indigent, MacPherson promotes Arpaio's latest stunts to a gullible media eager for a cheap sound bite.

And nothing triggers a media frenzy faster than allegations of death threats against the sheriff. Although no one has ever so much as fired a shot anywhere near the grandstanding Arpaio, he says more than a dozen people have been convicted of threatening to kill him. Yet it was never more obvious than during his recent interview with New Times that Arpaio is using the so-called threats only to bolster his image.

"I don't have a feeling I'm in that much danger," Arpaio admits, smirking.

MacPherson has expertly used the threats to make the public believe that Joe is one tough SOB, a guy who criminals hate so much that they want to blow him away.

She turns events that almost certainly would destroy an elected law enforcement official in any other major American metropolitan area into advantages for Sheriff Joe -- "the toughest sheriff in America."

The way she has whitewashed Arpaio's policy of abuse, torture and flagrant disregard of human rights inside the Maricopa County jails -- conditions that make the outrageous treatment of prisoners in Iraq by U.S. soldiers seem like child's play -- is nothing short of masterful.

The voting public has been manipulated overwhelmingly into believing that even inmates dying and incurring serious injuries from beatings by detention officers and fellow inmates is a good thing. The atrocities just demonstrate Joe Arpaio's righteousness as a crime fighter.

MacPherson has hoodwinked a conservative public in Maricopa County into believing that Joe's hardball tactics -- even against prisoners strapped helplessly in restraint chairs -- are good for us all. A whole lot of criminals will just go straight, according to the spin, before they will risk angering Mighty Joe.

But, lately, a lot of influential leaders in law enforcement, including one who represents Arpaio's own deputies, are among those who aren't buying it anymore.

"All he's concerned about is getting his face on the news," Chris Gerberry, president of the 300-member Maricopa County Deputies Association, says of the sheriff. "He's not tough on crime, he's tough on prisoners."


Scott Norberg's June 1, 1996, death in a restraint chair inside Maricopa County's Madison Street Jail remains the watershed event of Arpaio's tenure as sheriff.

One of Joe's top aides says that not only did detention officers handle Norberg properly, but the calamitous events of that day actually set a standard for how sheriff's detention officers should perform their duties in the future.

"I think the tone was set under Norberg," comments Larry Black, one of Arpaio's chief deputies.

Norberg died of asphyxia after he was tackled by 14 detention officers and strapped into the restraint chair. His head was then pressed forward against his chest and a towel was placed over his face. An autopsy report showed that he sustained numerous contusions and lacerations to his head, face, neck and limbs. He had been stun-gunned more than 20 times. There were burn marks up and down his body.

Norberg's death triggered worldwide criticism of the sheriff's office.

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International conducted a review of the incident and issued a 1997 report that states: "Although Norberg was reportedly uncooperative and engaged in bizarre behavior, his behavior and initial 'passive resistance' does not appear to have warranted the extreme degree of force used, especially as he already had his hands handcuffed behind his back and was lying on his stomach on the ground when dragged by officers from his cell."

To this day, Arpaio denies any wrongdoing by his jailers in Norberg's death. In fact, the sheriff is proud of how the matter was handled -- even though the county agreed to pay $8.25 million to settle the wrongful-death lawsuit filed by Norberg's family.

Arpaio says he was not consulted by the county's insurance carrier on the decision to settle the case. If he had been, he says, he would have declared that he "wanted to take it to trial."

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2 comments
Enemies List needs updating
Enemies List needs updating

It's time to get rid of "elected" officials as Sheriff and County Attorney. They have politicized law enforcement and the justice system putting all at risk to be used as their political pawns.

Need legislation for oversight and accountability of these offices. Hire professionals with higher standards then the minimal, inadequate standards that exist for these positions.

The people have had enough of abuse of power by thomas and arpaio!

 
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