Arpaio, Advocates Look Back on Ousting America's Toughest Sheriff | Phoenix New Times

Arpaio Spends Anniversary of Loss Getting His Teeth Cleaned

There's a new sheriff in town — but have things really changed?
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court.
Former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court. Stephen Lemons
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Exactly a year ago, Joe Arpaio was dethroned from his post as “America's toughest sheriff.”

The Associated Press declared current Sheriff Paul Penzone, a Democrat, would take the helm at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, at about 9:15 p.m. on November 8, 2016.

“There's a new sheriff in town” chants ensued.

Arpaio seems to still have a lot of grievances to air about the loss a year later — but he’s too busy planning for the future to discuss them right now.

"I’m not going to get into that," Arpaio told Phoenix New Times today. "I have other political plans. I’m not talking about what happened. I think if you read some of the statements about the Justice Department saying the day before the vote that they were going to charge me for a misdemeanor contempt of court, and a lot of other issues … I’ll be talking about very soon about the loss — including George Soros upping 5 million dollars against me. The main issue I’ll be talking about, but not much right now because I’m involved in other political situations.”

Then Arpaio had to get going. He’s spending the anniversary of his loss getting his teeth cleaned.

Arpaio lost steam in last year’s election as the Republican Party split over how much lawsuits against the former sheriff had cost taxpayers. The day before early voting began, Arpaio was smacked down with criminal contempt of court charges, which he was later convicted of before being pardoned by President Donald Trump.

But a year ago, things seemed so much simpler for some human rights activists.

The Arizona Republic reported that people beat Arpaio-themed piñatas when Arpaio was declared the loser after two decades in office. Hundreds gathered in Grant Park roared “Si, se puede.” It was a vote to be celebrated.

But longtime Arpaio opponents like Salvador Reza say they could see the writing on the wall, even then.

“Was I jumping for joy?” Reza recalls. “No. Arpaio is only a symptom of a greater problem.”

Things weren’t really going to change, Reza laments. They’d voted out the villain, but the system that created him was still in place.

“The truth is, it was, like, not exciting [on election night] because in reality the work had already been done,” Reza remembers. “It was just wondering how long it would take the new sheriff to start reproducing the same policies that Arpaio had.”

In Reza’s opinion, it didn’t take long. He faults Penzone for upholding some of the human rights travesties that took place under Arpaio. For example, Reza says Penzone should improve the quality of food served in Maricopa County prisons.

“I wasn’t one of the people celebrating at the time,” Reza said. “I’m happy for the community that they were very happy that he was no longer there, but it was only a matter of time before the system would take over again.”

Reza says it was hard to rejoice when what he saw as another anti-human rights candidate was hours away from being voted into the highest office in the land.

“When [Arpaio] finally got booted out by the voters, they were tired of paying for his little shows,” Reza says. “It was not because they disagreed with him — they showed it by electing Trump. They did not disagree with Arpaio’s thinking, they disagreed with him making it a show.”

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