As the longtime chief deputy to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, David Hendershott has long had a reputation as the sinister architect of Arpaio's political machinations.
But read Hendershott's personnel file, and you'll get a much different impression: one more akin to a bumbling Keystone Kop than the Lord of Darkness.
For one thing, there's Hendershott's endless struggle with his weight: The poor man has been written up for his flabby appearance -- and made promises to diet -- for more than two decades.
For another, there's the sheriff's files, once in Hendershott's possession, that somehow ended up blowing around the desert. Seriously!
A little back story: Now that Arpaio and just-resigned County Attorney Andrew Thomas have been forced to abandon their jihad against other county officials, things have been pretty quiet lately. Everyone is waiting, we suspect, for the next shoe to drop. And while we're happy to let the feds do their thing, waiting around (for dropping shoes or anything, really) has never been the New Times way.
So, on a whim, we put in a public-records request for Hendershott's personnel file. Not that we were expecting Arpaio to have disciplined his chief deputy or anything -- more that we were hoping there might be at least a few juicy details in there. And we were rewarded!
First, we learned that Hendershott was, initially, a fairly middling deputy. He was frequently rated as "satisfactory" by his supervisors, with only a few "excellents" thrown in there. "Outstanding," the department's highest rating, was rarely in evidence. And while Hendershott was elected class speaker for his academy class, he finished sixth out of 29th in his class -- not even making the top 20 percent.
But our boy David kept at it. He got his MBA, got himself transferred to vice and racketeering, even got promoted to sergeant, and then captain.
Then Arpaio took office. And suddenly -- just like that -- Hendershott could do no wrong. Gone were the "satisfactory" marks. From then on, it was "outstanding" and excellent."
As Arpaio wrote in the first evaluation of his tenure as sheriff, "Since September 1, 1993, Captain David Hendershott, as director of the community services division, has reported directly to me. I have had many opportunities to observe his work and have found him to be outstanding in the community relations field."
It just gets more outstanding, and more boring, from there. "Chief Hendershott's ease with the public makes him a natural," Arpaio wrote in 1994, noting that Hendershott had been promoted to Deputy Chief. "I didn't award Chief Hendershott the Sheriff's Meritorious Medal this past spring for nothing," he wrote in 1995. "I am proud to have him as my chief deputy," he wrote in 2001. Yawn!
Bored as we were with recent years, we couldn't help but head back to the early years and notice the endless -- and we mean endless -- references to Hendershott's weight.
The issue first surfaced in 1981, when his supervisor noted that Hendershott "continues to tackle his overweight problem by constantly dieting. It should be noticed that he recently started an exercise program which should help him not only in losing the excess weight, but keeping it off (hopefully)." Alas, that was way too optimistic. Hendershott's weight problems were referenced again throughout the '80s (apparently at that point he lost more than 100 pounds, only to gain it back) and then again in 1995, when even Arpaio criticized him for his girth, saying, "I have a selfish desire not to lose a capable commander to bad health...Weight reduction is a must."
But Hendershott's weight struggles pale in comparison to one big blot on his career as an officer, this one involving departmental files.
Hendershott's evaluation in August 1991 hints at some problems with the then-captain's management. The inspection of his district one month before, Hendershott's supervisor wrote, "revealed several deficiencies in departmental reports, policy and procedure manuals, weapons, and property lockers. Most of these were minor; however, they collectively point to the need for tightening up operations."
But that need became all too obvious in October 1991. At that point, according his file, Hendershott was written up for violating procedure and "poor judgment."
The reason? According to Hendershott's file, "several boxes of MCSO reports stored in his possession were inadvertantly thrown out by his baby-sitter. These documents were ultimately dumped in the desert [emphasis added] and found there by a citizen."
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Seriously, folks, we could not make this stuff up.
Naturally, the Sheriff's Office saw the whole affair as a blip, not the reflection of a sloppy officer with little regard for law enforcement property.
"This isolated incident was the culimination of an unfortunate series of events stemming from packing his office files several years ago," Hendershott's supervisor wrote. "Dave has not demonstrated any other cause for concern ..."
By the time of his next evaluation, Sheriff Arpaio had promoted Hendershott to be his chief deputy. Classic.