Bad News Day for Sheriff Arpaio: AP Story on Bungled Sex-Crime Cases in El Mirage Shames Agency Nationwide

You may be having a better Monday morning than Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who was slammed yesterday in a damning story about how his agency bungled hundreds of sex-crime cases.

The Associated Press story by Jacques Billeaud presented news that's familiar to local observers of the five-term sheriff of Maricopa County -- the story first broke in the local media back in May. (UPDATE: Actually, the mishandled cases were first mentioned in 2008, in the East Valley Tribune's Pulitzer-prize-winning article on the sheriff's office.)

But this time, the story of incompetence and injustice is reaching readers across the country as hundreds of news outlets pick it up.

What really hurts the politician is that the awful tale of what didn't happen in El Mirage with those sex cases has little to do with politics.

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It was just bad police work -- at the expense of victims of rape and molestation.

Compounding the bad PR is that the cases often involved poor people or illegal immigrants.

Billeaud relates the feelings of El Mirage Detective Jerry Laird, who...

... learned from a sheriff's summary of 50 to 75 cases files he picked up from Arpaio's office that an overwhelming majority of them hadn't been worked.

That meant there were no follow-up reports, no collection of additional forensic evidence and zero effort made after the initial report of the crime was taken.

"I think that at some point prior to the contract (for police services) running out, they put their feet on the desk, and that was that," Laird said.

True, the police force had to let the sheriff's office take over in 2005 because of its own incompetence. After the city signed a contract to pay Arpaio's office $2.7 million, the responsibility shifted -- but not for the better.

Arpaio refused to release any info to AP about the screw-up. An internal investigation seems to have led to the recognition of "policy violations," according to Billeaud's article.

But for now, Arpaio doesn't want to make this bad news worse by discussing it.


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