Arpaio Tries to Plug Leaks

A recent New Times cover story relied on deputies' accounts and public records to document how a massive shift of resources to the posse program had taken its toll on morale, as well as law enforcement, in the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

After the story ran, Sheriff Joe Arpaio denied that he had an interest in investigating to find out who had talked to New Times. But two independent sources in the Sheriff's Office claim something different.

They say the day after the story appeared, Arpaio and Deputy Chief David Hendershott, who runs the posse program, were seen in the office of Chief Deputy Jadel Roe, arguing furiously for a massive internal investigation. Roe oversees internal affairs investigations.

Roe tells New Times that the discussion occurred, but says there was no arguing. She adds that she could do nothing to stop a sheriff from initiating an internal affairs probe.

Last week, an investigation was launched. Lieutenant Robert Wetherell, who reports to Hendershott in Enforcement Support, has been temporarily assigned to Roe's department. Wetherell is leading an investigation of Sergeant Mark Battilana, a patrol officer in the Avondale district who has been put on administrative leave.

According to deputies, Battilana has been accused of supplying information for the New Times story ("Mutiny at the County," April 25).

Sergeant Tim Campbell, a public information officer, says Battilana is being investigated for a number of code-of-conduct violations, and he can't confirm if that includes talking to a reporter. Campbell says he can't give more specific information about the charges until the investigation is completed.

Battilana is a 16-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office. In 1994, he was featured in a Village Voice article which followed deputies and posse members during a sweep of prostitutes on Van Buren Street.

New Times has a policy against confirming or denying the identity of any confidential source.

Battilana, who didn't return calls from New Times, reportedly will be represented during the investigation by Deputies Association attorney Bob Yen--the same attorney who represented Arpaio in his failed 1994 lawsuit which attempted to keep the county Board of Supervisors from trimming the department's budget.

Deputies say Arpaio's use of an Enforcement Support officer to conduct the internal investigation confirms to them that the shift of resources, and power, in the Sheriff's Office has favored Chief Hendershott and his posse program. Arpaio refused to comment on the charge, saying through Campbell that he doesn't speak about ongoing internal investigations.

"Apparently, the rules don't work with Arpaio down there anymore," says a former Arpaio employee. "For anyone who's been in law enforcement, this is just unheard of. Under the cover of this thing, they're trying to create an environment of fear and screw anyone who's not a disciple of Joe's."

Another former employee, ex-deputy chief Bill Miller, says such a response fits Arpaio's obsession with dime-droppers. "When the truth is printed, he automatically suspects people inside the office. But he can't do this. It's a Freedom of Speech issue."

Meanwhile, widespread retribution for the New Times article has come down, deputies say, in the form of transfers. Sources in the Sheriff's Office say that anyone suspected of supplying New Times with information has been switched out of desirable positions.

Sergeant Campbell acknowledges that a larger number of transfers than usual took effect last Sunday, but he says it's because of a high number of promotions. "When you get a new sergeant, you put them out on the street," he says.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tony Ortega
Contact: Tony Ortega

Latest Stories