Even if you're one of those gap-toothed hillbillies who hate illegal immigrants and want nothing more than Arizona's population to be as pale as Anderson Cooper's ass, you have to admit that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's latest operation in the West Valley was a colossal waste of cash.
Headquartered in a lot in the windy armpit of Interstate 10 and Miller Road, Arpaio's military-style operation featured 200 deputies and posse members for each day of the two-day operation, scores of marked and unmarked MCSO vehicles, and several huge mobile processing trailers.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio
The Bird has put in a public-records request to try to get its wings around how much this overblown stunt cost us all. But while we wait eons for the MCSO to cough up the numbers, consider the paltry result of all those county resources: Fifty-two people arrested, only 14 of whom were suspected of being in the country illegally.
Fourteen?! The Phoenix Police Department often gets two or three times that in one drop-house raid. In a raid in July, for instance, the Phoenix po-po, along with the assistance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, took down a drop house with 50 suspected undocumented immigrants in it.
Indeed, on the first day of Sheriff Joe's Operation Overkill, the Phoenix PD and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, in a separate action, busted a drop house on the west side of town, with seven victims and five suspected smugglers, a total of 12 people. The victims were turned over to ICE for processing. The coyotes were arrested.
By contrast, Arpaio's wacky dragnet spent two whole days pulling people over on traffic violations. His deputies went about it in typical, meat-fisted MCSO fashion, in body armor, carrying assault rifles, and sometimes wearing ski masks. The whole thing reminded this warbler of that classic Monty Python sketch in which Graham Chapman and Eric Idle play Australian hunters who use a bazooka to down a mosquito.
During Joe's press conference on the first day of the sweep, Maricopa County's wanna-be General George Patton justified his outrageous operation by pointing to the area's reputation as a roadside dumping ground for dead bodies. And blamed the news media for not solving the buttload of slayings that have taken place on Joe's watch since 2002.
But when queried about why the MCSO hadn't solved the stack of murders, Joe whined, "We're here [now]. Give me a chance."
The MCSO's press release said the office had investigated "90 homicides" involving "38 Mexican nationals" since 2002, but Sheriff Alzheimer's had no idea how many of those homicides — if any — had been cleared.
Our doddering lawman also offered a unique theory of law enforcement in response to a query about how traffic stops would do the work of homicide detectives and crime-scene investigators.
"Maybe one of the violators might be the killers," offered Joe. "We might find some guns in [cars]. We may find some dead bodies. Most of your crimes that are solved in the United States are through traffic stops."
Someone should alert CNN's Nancy Grace. If the cops in Orlando really want to break that Caylee Anthony case, they should forget all that sleuthing, searching, and lab work, and pull over more people for driving with expired tags.
Indeed, on the first evening of the sweep, some of the big, bad criminals these masked sheriff's deputies were catching in the act included one little old lady left shivering in the cold at a Circle K after her car had been impounded by the MCSO because she was driving with outdated tags.
"I thought I was going to be arrested," the frail old woman told this tweeter, who had initially come upon the lady that night as she was in the back seat of an MCSO cruiser.
The Bird was alongside activist Dennis Gilman, who was working with CopWatch, a group that bird-dogs MCSO deputies during the sweeps and observes their activities. After coming upon this particular "investigation" in progress, this avian and Gilman were ordered away by a masked deputy, who informed us that he was an undercover cop and could not be filmed.
That's a crock, of course. How "undercover" could he be while in a marked MCSO vehicle? Later, the little old lady (an Anglo, by the way) told The Bird that once we were gone, Deputy Dumbass admitted to his partner that he'd spewed this malarkey so that we wouldn't photograph him. What he didn't know was that even before he'd ordered us away, Gilman had snagged a pic of the gendarme.
One other big collar of the night for the MCSO involved tearing a mother away from her crying children for an unpaid traffic ticket. Phoenix civil rights activist Sal Reza captured the children on film shortly after the arrest, which he observed. In a perverse twist on Toys for Tots, the deputy — who was also wearing a ski mask — offered the children small stuffed animals to calm them down. At one point, the deputy picked up the youngest child, a boy, and took him to his handcuffed mom, telling the kid, "Kiss your mommy goodbye."
The woman, Ciria Lopez-Pacheco, 25, currently has an ICE hold against her, and whether or not her traffic ticket gets paid, she may be heading back to Mexico, separated from her kids indefinitely.
How does terrorizing little kids and leaving old ladies stranded solve murders? Your guess is as good as this gander's. Plus, cities like Avondale and Buckeye, out where the sweep took place, already have police forces that can handle traffic patrols.
Interestingly, the West Valley View, the pugnacious independent paper that covers the west side, has been after Sheriff Joe for years to bring his office's investigative resources to bear on all the dead bodies that litter the region's roadways.
"Arpaio isn't good at solving crimes," one unsigned 2008 editorial noted. "Since 2005, more than a dozen bodies of homicide victims have turned up in the West Valley in Arpaio's jurisdiction. He's been too busy rounding up tree trimmers to go after the hardened criminals responsible for those murders. As a result, the people who depend on him for their police protection are at great risk."
Not only does Arpaio continue to piss away taxpayer money with impunity on these inefficient, expensive sweeps, he refuses to cut his budget in a time of fiscal crisis. And his administration persists in ass-backward policies that are a persistent drain on the county's coffers, and are sometimes in conflict with state statutes.
Take the recent news that the Arpaio's jails have been — once again — decertified by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care.
The MCSO's accreditation was first pulled in September. The county Board of Supervisors flipped out and pleaded for another chance on appeal. But Betty Adams, director of Correctional Health Services, the department that provides healthcare to county jail inmates, has just received a letter from the NCCHC, wherein president Ed Harrison lowers the proverbial boom.
"In response to your request for reconsideration of the decision to withdraw NCCHC accreditation from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office," wrote Harrison, "a focused survey was conducted on November 24-25, 2008. We did not find any evidence that would warrant a reversal of the prior decision of the NCCHC Accreditation Committee. Withdrawal of accreditation is affirmed."
Harrison then informed the county that it can further appeal NCCHC's decision, or it can reapply for accreditation.
Why is this a big deal? Well, as former New Times scribe John Dickerson pointed out in an article last fall, the sheriff's required by state law to show proof to the Arizona Department of Health that his gulags meet national health standards, as laughable as that may sound.
After all, doesn't Joe essentially run for re-election every four years on the premise that his jails are medieval, cockroach-infested rat holes? And if Joe's really broken the law on this, will he turn himself in to himself? Maybe Joe supporters could start a candlelight vigil down at the Fourth Avenue Jail, waiting for the sheriff to show up, slap the cuffs on himself, and demand that he be booked.
Okay, The Bird's wet-dreaming, but if the Board of Supervisors was ready to grow a collective pair, it could potentially use this new development to retaliate against Arpaio for investigating Supervisor Don Stapley, and having Joe's butt-boy, County Attorney Candy Thomas, slap Stapley with 118 felony counts for not filing his paperwork properly.
That power move was meant to keep the Supes in submission, and it sparked the ongoing war between Candy and the B.O.S. So why not use Joe's loss of accreditation against him for a little payback? Heck, Supes, at least use it against him in the freakin' press.
Joe will squeal that he doesn't control CHS. But as Dickerson pointed out in his piece last year, that's a copout. CHS and the MCSO are joined at the broken hip. CHS is responsible for healthcare, but Sheriff Green Bologna's liable for the nourishment of inmates, housing them properly, and delivering them to CHS if they're injured or sick.
The lack of accreditation leaves the county more vulnerable to payouts on lawsuits concerning Joe's jails. Without that accreditation, the MCSO's lawyers have nothing to fall back on. They won't be able to claim that Joe's jails are up to snuff. And conversely, litigants will be able to rightly say that the MCSO's jails blow, and that Arpaio's in defiance of state law.
So far, Arpaio's cost taxpayers more than $43 million in lawsuit payouts because of the gruesome conditions in his jails. Now that the NCCHC has shot down the sheriff once again, you can expect more and larger lawsuit settlements and awards. In a time of budget deficits and cutbacks, taxpayers can no longer afford Arpaio's rampant stupidity. What do Joe supporters want the county to do, go bankrupt for the star-wearing fool?
The Bird has to admit one thing about ol' Joe. His press conferences are hi-larious, especially when this taloned terror's able to crash one.
This happened at the one inaugurating Joe's first Hispanic-hunting escapade of the season on the west side. As The Bird joined the other representatives of the Fourth Estate out at I-10 and Miller Road, he was singled out by one of Joe's flacks, who asked this beaker if he planned to be respectful of the sheriff.
"Respectful of the sheriff?" blurted this blackbird, with a grin. "Why, The Bird always gives the sheriff the respect he deserves."
Within the sheriff's guarded perimeter, this feathered fiend tried to hold back the sarcasm, but when Joe started blathering on about how he really wanted to solve all these murders in the desert, and how "every life is precious," even if it belongs to a Mexican national executed behind a saguaro, The Bird felt as if his head was going to explode. So he asked the aged law dog why he'd been spending so much time pimping his retarded new reality show Smile . . . You're Under Arrest during a recent appearance on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. You know, instead of hunting for killers.
"The New Times wants to know why I went to the Conan O'Brien show," Arpaio announced. "I will tell you one thing [turning to The Bird], thank you for all the help with you having your people calling New York to try to boycott me appearing on the show . . . The protesters seem to be following me around every day, thanks to the New Times. There were a few protesters in New York. [And], by the way, [the show] paid for everything. I didn't pay a penny."
Arpaio was referring to a Feathered Bastard blog post, which announced the sheriff's appearance on the program, and asked ticked-off citizens to call NBC and do their impersonation of the Howard Beale character from the classic flick Network. You know, the guy who says, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!"
Apparently, it worked. O'Brien at least tried asking Joe a couple of serious questions, and ended up calling Arpaio's pilot for the Fox Reality show "a sign of the apocalypse." O'Brien noted that Arpaio had drawn the protesters at Rockefeller Center, where O'Brien's show is taped. And as you can see from Joe's comment above, the sheriff gives full credit to New Times for spoiling his big day on national TV.
At another point, as other journos seemed to overlook the obvious issue of racial profiling, The Bird hollered, "So do you plan to arrest any white people today, Joe?"
Arpaio looked back at The Bird cockeyed, a weird smile on his puss, pausing before gesturing to a black guy in cuffs nearby.
"I hate to tell ya — and ruin your day — I think we just arrested an African-American right over here."
"Yeah," screeched this mockingbird, "but that's not white, Joe. Don't you know the difference?"
Joe and The Bird's fellow Fourth Estaters fell into nonplussed silence. Only a nearby cameraman laughed out loud.
When Arpaio kept repeating his "every life is precious" line, this magpie inquired if the lives of his inmates were precious, too, like that of the recently murdered Robert Cotton, beaten to death in an Aryan Brotherhood hit. Or Juan Mendoza Farias, who may well have been asphyxiated by Joe's detention officers. To such queries, which The Bird offered up more than once, our corrupt top constable wouldn't comment.
After the press conference broke up, Joe held court with a few lingering reporters. Up close and personal, The Bird asked Arpaio if by expressing concern for the lives of Mexican nationals — and being sworn in recently by Jose Bello, a new American citizen and the father of two MCSO employees — the sheriff was attempting to rehabilitate his image with the Hispanic community.
At first, Arpaio said he didn't have to answer the question, considering its source. Then, reporter Valeria Fernandez of La Voz urged the sheriff to respond. Arpaio then, putting a hand on The Bird's wing, professed that he likes this avian.
As to the question. "I just got re-elected," he said. "If I had wanted to rehabilitate myself, I would have done it two or three months ago, before the election."
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"But, Joe, folks tell us you're running for governor," quacked this mallard.
"I could've been governor . . ." he pshawed.
"You still could," snarked The Bird. "After all, you're still a spry 76."
Yikes, the governor's race is less than two years away, and what the hell else does Grandpa Munster have to do with his time? Solve murders?