The Joe Show Documents a Measly Sheriff's Rise to Celebrity and Power-Abusing Tyranny

Most places in the United States aren't dominated by a single personality. Sure, in Washington, President Obama's every movement is news, and in New York, it's Gotham's mayor who garners the most media time.

Yet here, in the nation's sixth-biggest city and fourth-biggest county, not a week goes by that we are not told — usually more than once — that Sheriff Joe Arpaio bestrides Maricopa County like a two-bit colossus with a bad haircut.

I'm reminded of Arpaio's media dominance whenever I visit Los Angeles, which has a pantheon of movie stars to worship and couldn't care less whether, on any given day, any of its public servants drop dead in their morning oatmeal.

"It's amazing what I say and what I do and what I get away with," Arpaio tells Phoenix-based documentarian Randy Murray.
Courtesy of Randy Murray Productions
"It's amazing what I say and what I do and what I get away with," Arpaio tells Phoenix-based documentarian
Randy Murray.

But once you return to Maricopa County, the incessant drumbeat of Arpaio's name begins again, and it's nearly impossible to escape.

Directly or indirectly, you will know what stunts Arpaio pulled, what new outrage he's responsible for.

And you ignore him at your peril.

For while he's raiding a chicken farm with Steven Seagal or declaring Obama's birth certificate a fraud, he's also misspending more than $100 million of taxpayer funds, racially profiling a third of our residents, and ensuring that his jails are places where pre-trial detainees — presumed innocent under our judicial system — die horrific deaths at the hands of detention officers or fellow inmates.

How a power-abusing scoundrel such as Arpaio turned the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office into a 20-year-plus reign of self-aggrandizement is the subject of a new documentary, aptly named The Joe Show, which will have its world première on Wednesday, February 26, at the Sedona International Film Festival.

The work of Phoenix-based director/producer Randy Murray of Randy Murray Productions, the film has been eight years in the making and features behind-the-scenes glimpses into Arpaio and top flack Lisa Allen's cartoonish manipulations of the media.

These include a humdinger from 2005, when the MCSO moved about 2,000 inmates to a new jail, handcuffed together and stripped to their Arpaio-mandated pink underwear, as TV cameras gobbled up the spectacle.

"I want you to look tough," Allen advises Joe before the prisoners in pink flip-flops march past. "Just stand there and watch 'em. Tap your foot."

The stunt works like a charm, attracting national attention, with Arpaio's giving a phone interview to right-wing Fox News host Sean Hannity and, afterward, confiding to the filmmakers how easy it all was.

"I knew, Lisa knew, the minute we put these guys in the pink underwear, that will be what goes on the air," Arpaio says. "Do you really think that no one is going to show these guys in their pink underwear?"

And so it goes, from Tent City and all-female chain gangs to "Inmate Idol" talent competitions and posse members' doing dragnets for a lost pet ostrich in Cave Creek.

With prisoners in stripes as extras, Allen and Arpaio offer journalists pre-packaged, ready-for-TV tales, for which the sheriff is rewarded with more name recognition than God.

At one point, Arpaio proudly shows off a room adjacent to his office where he keeps bankers boxes filled with newspaper clippings and shelves lined with videos of his TV appearances.

That such stardom assists in Arpaio's re-election efforts is a no-brainer. Arpaio becomes "the world's most famous sheriff" and "America's toughest sheriff."

One of the documentary's talking heads, famed broadcaster Larry King, comments on Arpaio's ubiquity.

"Who do I think of when I think of 'sheriff'?" King asks. "I think of Gunsmoke and him."

All this branding and image-pimping is prologue to a hypothetical question posed by Allen.

"He is a media hound — there's no doubt about it — but so what?" she shrugs. "So what that he's got this magic formula worked out that attracts media attention . . . The public seems to like what he does. The media likes it because it fills some empty air time. So what is the downside, exactly?"

Regular readers of this paper know the downside as well as they know Joe's bag of tricks.

But The Joe Show goes through some of the nadirs of Arpaio's rule for those outside the confines of Maricopa County.

Like in 2006, when immigration enforcement becomes yet another way for Arpaio to court controversy and get his mug on the tube.

Whole communities of color, such as the tiny town of Guadalupe, are targets of MCSO sweeps, and the Sheriff's Office begins diverting resources from basic cop work to immigration enforcement.

As Pulitzer-winning journalist Ryan Gabrielson, formerly of the East Valley Tribune, recounts for director Murray, that diversion had a devastating effect on MCSO response times and arrest rates.

"In 2006, the year that [the MCSO] started doing immigration enforcement, it plummeted [from 45 percent] to like 32 percent of the time they were arriving on time.

"In 2005, the arrest rate was about 10 percent. [In 2006], that had dropped to, like, 4 percent. The following year, in 2007, it had dropped for a time to 2.5 percent."

While more than $100 million surreptitiously was transferred into the MCSO's immigration crackdown and other pet projects, more than 400 sex crimes in El Mirage went un-investigated by the MCSO. We hear horrifying examples in the documentary from two young women victimized and denied justice.

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Athlette [sic]: Kim Jong Il must be a much better leader than Joe Arpaio, according to your logic, because his approval rate is nearly 100%, MUCH higher than Joe's- right?  That is true of all tyrants who are in power.  Name one case where it's not true.

This journalism you hate is about a documentary.  Have you seen it?  Do you want to tell Joe and Lisa that they didn't actually say the things they were filmed saying?  Joe has been found to not be following the law- by multiple courts, multiple judges- do you know whether they are all Dems?  Is Rick Romley a Dem?  I doubt that you know.  But you know more, having sat through exactly none of the court proceedings- because someone said so, right?  It's someone you trust.  Could it be possible that you trust people who are not trustworthy?

Which of the facts stated in this story do you take issue with?  Prove otherwise.  There's nothing wrong with facts, right?  Look at the number of deportations, and the number of people crossing the border over the last 10 years.  Informed people are not impressed by your political talking points.

I am not political- I think most politicians envy Arpaio and his election record and approval ratings.  I don't envy those politicians!  I try to be informed (with facts from objective reality- like video, sort of).  You will not post answers to any of the questions I have asked, because you know they do not fit with the reality you have created for yourself.


You call him MEASLY are you kidding he is the last great hope for this country's horrible immigration problem, God help you all, I think you do not understand what "laws" are

they used to have to be followed by EVERYONE including people FROM OTHER call this JOURNALISM????That's disgusting I call it a complete

mischaracterization of a HUGH problem that this is THE ONLY MAN IN AMERICA has

dared to take on, I guess any one that does NOT AGREE WITH YOU...IE J.D. HAYWORTH

or the 90% of the people in MARICOPA COUNTY must be idiots too? RIGHT? Because

you people know "what is best for this country" REALLY??????Where are your stats

on all the ILLEGAL BIRTHS, and DRUGS, CRIME and car accidents???? Not to mention

kidnappings and murders...YOUR JOURNALISM SUCKS...WE LOVE JOE!


I think is's too bad that we don't have more people in positions of power like Sheriff Arpaio. He is dedicated to enforcing the law and he does it better than anyone else. I'm so sick and tired of the liberal, leftist, and illegal losers who cry and bellyache about him.Llive within the law, and you will have nothing to worry about, break the law and get what you deserve. If you live here illegally and get caught, you should be deported, we don't want you here anyway. Give em hell Joe!


I pray everyday this man has a terrible excruciating death from all the pain he HSS caused people. He's the model hipocrit for the republican tea party. Any man that gets away with this is just out to soak in his own glory and bathe in the publicity he gets by acting like a dick. I bet he isn't so tough when he gets caught out by himself. He's the type, like most cock sucking police officers who hide behind badges just because they were the ones getting picked on after gym class in the shower for their inadequacy's! Lol! I truly hope they uprise n that jail and town n who that loud mouth pussy who is truly the voice of the people. The man with the bigger gun. An that sure isn't old Lil dick Joe n his marry men of pole smokers. Who love seeing their boyfriends, oops, I mean colleagues on TV n in the steam room having one big circle jerk. Rot in hell Maricopa county sheriff's office. Rot in hell!


I checked his FB page and the MAGNANIMOUS PRICK talks about meeting with PETA to talk about putting the jails on a vegetarian diet. He's actually trying to cover his sadistic treatment of human beings by claiming it benefits animals.

MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

When will Eric Holder indict this sorry son of a bitch Arpaio?


What do I think when I think of him?  Not Gunsmoke.  No, not Wyatt Erp.  I think of the evil sheriff of Nottingham that Robin Hood battled.  We can get rid of the bullies in Arizona politics and insure that everyone including the sheriff, the attorney general, and the legislature have to obey the law:

Remember you can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.  Vote democratic to insure a more tolerant state that respects the rights of everyone.


@johncifra Yes, he IS dedicated to enforcing the law.  He even had someone write a book about it.  You've probably heard of it: "Joe's Law" It's THE (only) law he enforces.  400 abuse victims can't be wrong.  Different judges, the County Supervisors, and the County Attorney can't (all) be wrong.  Have you seen this guy's actual record?

Yeah, in this one case, even the Goldwater Institute is left-wing.  Why else would they use these inconvenient facts, why would they criticize your God?  Believe as you choose, there's freedom of religion here.  Or- "call it the stupidity of the voters, whatever".

I'm no lefty- I think most politicians envy him and his approval ratings, and would gladly take his place.  And I mean politicians, as in the whole world.

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