A Hoss-Style Witness

What follows are excerpts from Sheriff Joe Arpaio's April 21 deposition.
Joel Robbins: In terms of your knowledge of the jails and the violence that goes on there, you don't have any knowledge of it independently of your staff, correct?

Arpaio: Well, I'm probably the first sheriff in history around the nation that has ever slept with the inmates, and probably the only one that has ever gotten jails in tents like I do, so I do spend or give special attention to the jail system.

Robbins: Did you utilize any special means of protecting yourself when you were in the Tent City?

Arpaio: That was a rumor that the New Times had and also a certain reporter printed. Which time are you talking about? I spent two times in there. Which time are you talking about?

Robbins: With the sheriff from Arkansas.
Arpaio: No. You're talking about the first time. No. What do you mean, like a SWAT team like I have been accused of?

Robbins: Yes.
Arpaio: No . . .
Robbins: Was there a SWAT team or wasn't there a SWAT team?
Arpaio: I don't know.

[In fact, each night Arpaio spent in the tents, a SWAT team was posted in a building nearby and a sharpshooter was stationed on a roof overlooking the tent complex. Not only does New Times possess the time cards for those SWAT team members for each night, but the Sheriff's Office, in an April 22, 1996, letter, confirmed the presence of the team and admitted that Sheriff Arpaio was aware that they were stationed nearby.]

Robbins: And in terms of your being a patrol officer, you mentioned in the book [Arpaio's autobiography, America's Toughest Sheriff] that you were the most assaulted officer on the Washington police force?

Arpaio: I don't remember if I said the most. I haven't read my own book. I'm glad you read it. I don't know if I was the most assaulted. I'm sure there were a lot of assaults on me . . .

Robbins: That brings up a good question. You say that you've never read your book, correct?

Arpaio: Never read it from cover to cover yet. But I wrote it with my co-author. That doesn't mean I have to read it after it's published.

Robbins: Winston Churchill once said that he was the mouth that made the lion roar, he was the voice of the British Empire during the course of World War II. And at least one of the positions that we're taking in this lawsuit is that you are the mouth that makes the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department roar, and your words, in some instances, are the most clear guidance that your officers have of what you intend for the jail system.

Dan Struck (Arpaio's county-paid attorney): There's no question.
Robbins: Do you agree with that statement?
Struck: Object to form.

Arpaio: I'm really confused. You mean over television, the roar? Where is my roar?

Robbins: On television, radio.
Struck: Just answer the question. Do you agree or disagree?
Arpaio: I disagree.

Robbins: What contact do you have with deputies on an average week?
Arpaio: Deputies? Are you talking about sworn or detention?
Robbins: Sworn officers.

Arpaio: I don't know how to answer that because I don't know what you're talking about. I see deputies in the men's room sometimes. What do you mean by "contact"?

Robbins: Do you believe it is ever appropriate to break someone's arm for the purpose of inflicting punishment after being called a bad name?

Arpaio: As I say, every case, every situation is different. It's difficult for me to comment.

Robbins: How would you expect your officers to react if they're verbally assaulted?

Arpaio: Verbally assaulted?
Robbins: Someone yells a bad name at them.
Arpaio: Once again, it's difficult to take your general statement, because I don't know all the circumstances. Once again, every situation is different, especially in jail, so I can't second-guess right now and answer that question.

Robbins: What kind of facts do you need to determine whether an officer under you has used excessive force?

Arpaio: I have investigators, internal security and otherwise that look into these matters. And after their investigation is completed, then the determination is whether they used excessive force. I just cannot get into any general terms of saying what excessive force is.

Robbins: So, ultimately, in terms of your definition of "excessive force," your definition is that someone else determines it for you? You're nodding your head. Was that a yes?

Arpaio: No. An investigation has to be done before a determination can be made.

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