Joe Arpaio's Top Man, Jerry Sheridan, Described as a Bigot in Ex-Deputy's Book
Brian Sands, a former top-ranking deputy under Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, describes Arpaio's current chief deputy as a bigot in a new, dirt-dishing book.
Our colleague Stephen Lemons first brought you news of Sands' book on Saturday. We ordered a copy for ourselves, and the typo-ridden, apparently self-published, 177-page book arrived in the mail yesterday. We'll be covering what it says over the next week or two. Today, we take a look at Chapter 1, in which Sands begins a Sheridan-bash that continues until the last chapter.
Sands also blasts his former boss in the first chapter as someone who's more interested in self-aggrandizement than his own deputies. Sheridan, a white man, is criticized heavily for his views on other ethnic persuasions. And Frank Munnell, the commander who exposed shady dealings of some of Arpaio's top brass in 2010, is also described as being extremely insensitive to minorities.
Sands begins his book, "Arpaio De Facto Lawman," in 1992 when he meets the newly elected Arpaio for the first time. Sands was working as a detective for the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office back then, and he'd been assigned the Buddhist Temple Murders case, which had been botched so bad by the office that it resulted in Tom Agnos losing the sheriff's race to Arpaio.
Sands was shopping in a cop-uniform store when Arpaio walked in, looking for someone else. He asked Sands about his work, and Sands told him he was working on the Temple Murders.
"That's nothing to be proud of," Arpaio told him.
And indeed, it wasn't -- considering that the office's investigation had been bungled so badly, deputies had gotten four men from Tucson to confess to the mass murder, even though they didn't do it. Sands claims he "believed early on that the focus was on the wrong people," but that higher-ups in the office were "dead set on implicating" the Tucson men.
Arpaio told Sands not to worry about a probe he was planning into the problems with the murder investigation, and he downplayed the idea that the Tucson men were involved. Sands says he and other detectives on the case were relieved.
Sands was later put into the agency's organized-crime division.
"Was our new leader a very benevolent person?" Sands writes. "Yes and no."
Sands claims he came to understand that Arpaio did care about front-line workers at the agency. But a couple of pages later, he describes an incident in which Arpaio called a news conference to tout the arrest of some murder suspects. The detectives who'd been involved in the case were asked to come to the news conference, which "impressed" Sands -- for a minute.
After most people had left the room, Sands says he "thanked Arpaio for his public recognition of deputies' hard work. He gave me a very strange look -- which I have never forgotten -- and didn't say a word."
A sergeant soon explained to him that Sands was mistaken if he thought the news conference was "about the deputies." It was really "all about the Sheriff" and a "press opportunity." Sands says that's when he started to learn how the office under Arpaio would work.
How Arpaio ran his posse program was another concern of Sands'. He recalls responding to a domestic violence call and finding flamboyant posse member Tim Gee already at the scene, fully dressed in an MCSO uniform. Gee explained that he worked for the water service in Wittman and just happened to be at the scene when the domestic-violence call came in. Sands was concerned that Gee was out shutting off water for non-paying utility customers while in an MCSO uniform. He was even more surprised when he later found out that Gee was a former member of the Dirty Dozen motorcycle gang and a convicted felon.
Sands reserves a large amount of criticism for the current chief deputy. A rookie deputy when he first met Sheridan, Sands writes that he's always had a "friendly relationship with Sheridan; however, he had a reputation for not taking care of business." He would often find Sheridan "sleeping in his patrol car" and could not take him seriously as a deputy.
Sheridan was interested in dealing with complaints about day laborers in the community. But Sands was suspicious of Sheridan's motives, saying Sheridan seemed to be "ethnically biased. He would, from time to time, speak in derogatory terms, reference groups of people, and appeared to think he was funny."
Sands details one such incident in which he told Sheridan about a deputy who had a bad habit of coming in late to work.
"Well, it is in his genes," Sands says Sheridan told him. He asked Sheridan to clarify the comment, and Sheridan said, "You know" and laughed. Sands assumed Sheridan -- who had a "class-clown attitude" -- made the comment because the deputy was black.
MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan is singled out for a heaping of criticism in Brian Sands' book.Sheridan once noted that an MCSO commander of Italian descent wore lots of jewelry because it was a "'Guido' thing." Sheridan allegedly told Sands his "hero" was an Irish Republican Army terrorist named Bobbi Sands. Sands writes that he found Sheridan's "divisive and ethnocentric" attitude "frightening."
Sheridan's "close friend," Frank Munnell, also shows the "same lack of common sense," according to Sands. One time, Munnell circulated a fake police lineup picture "throughout the division" that featured several photos of Buckwheat from the Little Rascals TV show and one picture of Jerry Sheridan.
Munnell also reportedly sent a Christmas card to a Jewish deputy, writing in it, "Merry Christmas you f___ing Jew."
Sands claims he was "shocked," and that the Jewish deputy told him he wished he'd saved the card.
Other highlights from the first chapter include:
* Arpaio ordered his deputies to violate policy by driving to every call with lights and sirens on. Sands writes that he told one deputy doing this that while Arpaio could order him to violate policy, the deputy could be held responsible if anyone was hurt.
* A former lieutenant with the office, Jim Nielson, "ran amuck (sic)" in the office under the "weak" leadership of Sheridan. Nielson was "obsessed" with a local nudist colony. He kept a binder in his office with complaints about the colony and derogatory notes about the colony's residents.
Sands concludes the chapter by acknowledging that some of his complaints against Arpaio and Sheridan may seem "petty to some," but that he was foreshadowing some of the "later problems" addressed later in the book.
Sands has his own reasons for publishing this gossip, but they're not very clear. As a whole, the book comes off as biased and bitter. Some of it is written poorly. But it's damned interesting for longtime observers of Arpaio and his often-dysfunctional, discriminatory agency.
Next week, we'll cover Chapter Two, which covers more of Arpaio's publicity-seeking, problems with posse members, hanging out with Jerry Springer and the feud between Arpaio and former County Attorney Rick Romley.
New Times put in a request to Arpaio, Sheridan and Munnell for comment about Sands' book and its allegations. We'll let you know if they respond.
Got a tip? Send it to: Ray Stern.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.
- Mayor Greg Stanton Calls for All Phoenix Cops to Wear Body Cameras
Mon., Feb. 15, 7:00pm
Thu., Feb. 18, 7:00pm
Thu., Feb. 18, 7:00pm
Fri., Feb. 19, 7:30pm
- Arizona Governor Doug Ducey Permits Geocaching Game on State Land
- How 20 Metro Phoenix Cities Got Their Names