Say No to Joe

Voters have the best chance ever of kicking Outlaw Joe to the curb on September 7.

Saban says he is worried that Outlaw Joe will unleash a nasty dirty trick down the campaign stretch.

Far-fetched? Hardly.

Outlaw Joe has already executed one major smear against his opponent. He dispatched his "threat assessment squad" to try to destroy Saban's campaign last spring on a spurious charge brought by Saban's former foster mother. The plan backfired because everybody -- except one hapless TV reporter (who was later fired because he had contributed to Joe's campaign and then done the Saban hit piece) -- saw through what Arpaio was trying to pull.

"I fear every time I leave home that he is going to break in and put a pound of marijuana in my house," Saban says. "This guy is desperate."

Saban presses on with a relentless campaign schedule. He is talking to every civic and political group that will listen.

Saban promises to reform the reckless department that Arpaio has molded. But perhaps his most important initiative, and one that McCain emphasized in his endorsement, is that the challenger vows to carefully coordinate sheriff's office operations with other police agencies in the Valley -- an extremely important consideration in the post-9/11 era. That's something Arpaio has steadfastly refused to do, his officers bursting into other police jurisdictions without a word whenever they feel like it.

"The support I've received underscores the importance of this race and what it means for improving public safety in Maricopa County," Saban says.

Indeed, these are dangerous times.

And I don't mean from terrorists from afar.

As this newspaper has documented for nearly a dozen years, one of the most dangerous threats to the welfare and safety of the average citizen in Maricopa County comes from Outlaw Joe and his storm troopers.

Citizens are far more likely to be stun-gunned, strapped into a restraint chair and suffocated, beaten into a coma with tent stakes, have their property seized and destroyed without compensation and have loved ones -- including pets -- killed without a hint of remorse from Arpaio's brown shirts.

Renegade deputies emulating their deranged boss pose a far more immediate threat to health and welfare than the plots of Osama bin Laden and his band of lunatics.

The bottom line is, Arpaio has proven himself incapable of balancing our security and our constitutional rights. He's never embraced the basic American principle that a person is innocent until proven guilty.

Outlaw Joe believes that anyone arrested must be guilty of something, and therefore he is eager to inflict as much punishment as possible -- the Constitution be damned.

If you happen to die before you're even charged with a crime, too bad.

Arpaio has no problem withholding evidence in civil cases filed against his office in the wake of beatings and killings in his jail. He isn't concerned about violating state campaign finance laws by accepting illegal donations.

He sees no legal or ethical issue with his office providing cushy space in a supposedly closed Mesa detention center to the wealthy who can provide him benefits, including campaign contributions. This sweetheart arrangement protects the rich and powerful from having to serve time in Arpaio's dungeons like Tent City.

Arpaio routinely violates the state's public records law to prevent you from knowing what's really going on inside his notorious jails, where detailed reports about deaths and riots are illegally withheld from public inspection.

Even more worrisome is his refusal to release police reports related to the increasingly dangerous and chaotic operations by his SWAT team that has been known to destroy private property and simply walk away.

Arpaio continues to refuse to release public records related to the July 23 assault in Ahwatukee that netted a measly misdemeanor arrest and left behind a burned-up house, a smashed car and the incinerated dog whose body was left to rot in the rubble for five days.

The Ahwatukee incident was followed by another SWAT team raid in August on a small Wickenburg motel that terrified guests and wrecked a room. So far, the owner of the motel has had to absorb all the costs of the SWAT raid.

"They just broke everything and they departed," Westerner Motel owner Kamal C. Solanki tells me. "It's just not right."

My requests to MCSO public information officer Paul Chagolla for reports related to the Wickenburg attack have been ignored.

Looming over the near horizon is a massive problem for the sheriff's office. Taxpayers have paid for several expensive new jails in downtown Phoenix and at the Durango complex. These fancy new lockups are nearing completion, but Arpaio has been unable to hire the detention officers needed to operate the facilities.

Outlaw Joe needs to hire 1,000 new guards to staff these jails set to open later this fall. Taxpayers have shelled out more than $500 million for the facilities that can't be used safely because few qualified people want to work for a nut case like Arpaio.

What is dreadfully clear is that Arpaio has ruined the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

And at the same time he's become a real-estate-rich man.

You might wonder how he has managed to accumulate more than $2 million worth of property during his tenure as sheriff. I certainly have.

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