Joe Arpaio is a psychopath.
Arpaio is considering running for governor of Arizona. He'll announce his decision March 27.
If he runs, he's the front-runner. Recent polls show voters view him more favorably than any other candidate. His name recognition is at 94 percent, 10 percent higher than the leading Democrat, Janet Napolitano, and 32 percent higher than his top Republican opponent, Matt Salmon.
Arpaio is popular because the Arizona media have failed profoundly at explaining that he's a psychopath. The media find him amusing.
I find him amusing, too, and very likable. He is so affable, in fact, he lulls you into forgetting his nine years of mismanagement, torture, secrecy and lying as Maricopa County Sheriff.
Arpaio will become governor only if the Arizona media continue to downplay his real record as sheriff, a record that, when looked at seriously, could only be built by a man without conscience.
I believe he will only announce his candidacy if he believes the media will go soft on this record.
Joe, for the record, I will pound on you. And I'll do my best to persuade other journalists to pound on you. No jokes, just facts; and facts say you're a psychopath who shouldn't be in any public office, let alone the office of governor.
Arpaio would destroy the Arizona state government as he has the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Arpaio would become the laughingstock of the nation, a new gubernatorial freak show that would make Jesse Ventura's Minnesota look as sober and distinguished as the House of Lords.
Arpaio would needlessly alienate the Legislature as he did the county Board of Supervisors and, in doing so, bring retaliatory budget cuts down on state government. Then he would grossly mismanage the depleted funds he received, as he did driving the sheriff's office to its $2 million shortfall. I believe he wouldn't care one bit as long as he had the cameras running on him.
Egomania is one of the lesser foibles of a psychopath.
A greater foible is an absolute disregard for human rights.
If you think the psychopath label is hyperbole, consider the chief criteria used by Dr. Robert Hare, the leading national expert on mental disorders, in evaluating prison populations to identify psychopaths.
Dr. Hare provides an effective framework for discussing both Arpaio's record and his fitness for office. In his book Without Conscience, he provides six key emotional traits in "The Psychopathy Checklist."
Glib and Superficial
"Psychopaths are often witty and articulate. They can be amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and tell unlikely but convincing stories that cast themselves well and are often very likable and charming."
Arpaio has lied repeatedly about his record, particularly with the DEA, claiming, for example, that he was in "daily gun battles," that he had "broken up" the drug ring in the famous "French Connection" case and that he once arrested Elvis Presley (balderdash, according to Presley historians). He lied when he said he spent two nights in Tent City without protection. He actually had his SWAT team hidden among inmates, a scheme that cost thousands and pulled the team from critical work.
On more serious issues, he lies about the cost of inmate meals, he lies about the cost of his self-promotion schemes, he lies about the success of his programs and he lied about how much he spent giving perks to sycophants while the department languished in a budget crisis.
He has lied as he has promised openness and public accountability at the same time he has relentlessly blocked journalists and attorneys from public records detailing his department's finances and abuses of inmates or whistle-blowing staffers.
There is no other living Arizona political figure with such a documented history of lying.
Top political figures don't hate him because he's popular, as he claims; they hate him because he's so clearly a fraud.
Egocentric and Grandiose
"Psychopaths have a narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the center of the universe, as superior beings who are justified in living according to their own rules."
Read his biography, read past stories, listen to him talk when he meanders beyond sound bites.
As he positions himself for a gubernatorial run, Arpaio has become slightly more savvy in couching his egomania in terms of "what the people want."
"I'm only tired if the people are tired of me," he told me late last year. "I do it all for them."
Less than a minute later, he said:
A Lack of Remorse or Guilt
"Psychopaths show a stunning lack of concern for the devastating effects their actions have on others. Often they are completely forthright about the matter, calmly stating that they have no sense of guilt, are not sorry for the pain and destruction they have caused, and that there is no reason for them to be concerned."
This is a critical point for taxpayers, because, regardless of whether you care about human rights, Arpaio's psychopathy will soon be costing you an immense amount of money.
When Scott Norberg was strangled by Arpaio's henchmen, Arpaio would not apologize to Norberg's family or change the idiotic and violent policies that led to his death. So the Norbergs got ace attorney Michael Manning, previously the bane of Charles Keating and Fife Symington, and sued. Manning got a settlement of $8.5 million from the county.
"All the Norbergs wanted was an apology," Manning told me last week. "Arpaio wouldn't give it."
American jails are intended to detain the accused and punish the sentenced by denying them freedom. Arpaio has made a career of being grossly unconstitutional.
"He's an absolute outrage," Manning says. "And people seem to think it's funny."
Lack of Empathy
"One rapist, high on the 'Psychopathy Checklist,' commented that he found it hard to empathize with his victims. Psychopaths view people as little more than objects to be used for their own gratification."
Gratification would include political aspirations.
Now a guy named Charles Agster is dead, strangled in jail as Norberg was.
All the Agsters wanted was an apology. No go. So they went to Manning. This time, Manning wants nothing less than $25 million. He doesn't really want the county to settle. He wants a trial because he knows a jury will give more.
Manning will win and he will get his money because Arpaio is an unrepentant repeat offender. Taxpayers will pay $1 million now, then pay tens of millions later when the county's insurance premiums come up for bid again. Because of Arpaio, Maricopa County has become the insurance-risk equivalent of a 16-year-old male driver.
Deceitful and Manipulative
"With their powers of imagination in gear and focused on themselves, psychopaths appear amazingly unfazed by the possibility -- or even by the certainty -- of being found out. When caught in a lie or challenged with the truth, they are seldom perplexed or embarrassed -- they simply change their stories or rework the facts so they appear to be consistent with the lie."
This pretty much describes New Times' 10-year relationship with Arpaio. We continue to provide proof of his lies, he continues to change his story.
(For more on Arpaio's record, read past New Times investigative pieces in Joe Arpaio's Unofficial Website for Tough Guys)
"While at times they appear cold and unemotional, they are prone to dramatic, shallow and short-lived displays of feeling. . . . Many clinicians have commented that the emotions of psychopaths are so shallow as to be little more than proto-emotions: primitive responses to immediate needs."
Nearly every major state or national story brings a press release from Arpaio announcing his outrage over the wrongs committed and the good things Arpaio will do to soothe the nation.
He turns his jail into an animal shelter and brags that he feeds dogs better than his inmates. He rails against abuses at a local boot camp for troubled teens as detainees in his own jail continue to be maimed and killed.
Arpaio was at his sickening best after September 11, playing the Zeitgeist by forcing donations from inmates and making them paint American flags in their cells. Detention officers took on this extra administrative duty as they watched over jail pods that are, at times, running at one-third the recommended staffing levels.
"Everything changed after September 11," Arpaio said in our talk. "Now people want a tough guy who worked in Turkey and all over the world fighting terrorism. My polls were good before September 11, but now they're through the roof."
Arpaio is a psychopath who has found a position that allows him to feed his ego and torture people with impunity.
His popularity ratings are strongest in the Valley's retirement communities, where Joe's "tough on crime" bravado plays to fears of crime in people who have been sheltered enough to believe they could never be wrongly accused.
Retirees need to imagine being wrongly accused of a crime and thrown in a jail the sheriff has deemed a "place of punishment." So you end up dead or maimed before your trial. Is this the America you want?
And voters can blow off his record because Valley journalists haven't taken his abysmal record, or the office of sheriff, seriously enough.
Blame this fact on a different disorder, one rampant in modern journalists, including myself. Call it chronic irreverence.
David Leibowitz has it in spades; so does Ed Montini and just about every other writer at the Republic and the East Valley Tribune. We want to be players. Players are glib, ironic, masters of realpolitik.
So we're detached, cool and contrarian just for kicks. What is grotesque becomes black comedy. The straight truth becomes passé. We're like American Eurotrash.
Journalists have a duty to get dead serious now. And the citizenry needs to accept nothing less.
If the truth gets out, and the truth is repeated with the gravity it deserves, he will be stopped.
So there's your gamble, Joe. If the public and its watchdogs think psychopaths are funny, you win.
If they don't, you lose. And then justice is finally served.
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.