Deputy Chief Brian Sands, longtime aide to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has retired after nearly 30 years on the force.
The high-ranking deputy's departure comes just ahead of a showdown between Sands' boss and federal authorities over a racial-profiling mess that Sands helped create.
Sands worked as head of enforcement, overseeing the agency's infamous illegal immigrant sweeps, anti-human-smuggling operations and employer-sanctions investigations. As one of Arpaio's key go-to men, Sands helped lead a department that regularly treated Hispanics to worse treatment than other races whether on the street or in county lockup. At least, that's according to a May court ruling, hordes of critics who include the U.S. Department of Justice, and piles of evidence.
Lawyers in both sides of the Melendres vs. Arpaio case are scheduled to meet before the judge on August 30 with a consent decree hammered out that specifies how the agency will end its discriminatory practices. Snow has indicated previously that he believes a federal monitor might be appropriate to make sure Arpaio behaves
But Sands, who previously gave key testimony in the trial, won't be there. His retirement is effective as of August 1, county officials say.
We'll assume Sands led a fine career, for most it -- though we haven't reviewed his record. Trouble is, there's just no trusting the people tied to Arpaio's disgraced, former chief deputy, David Hendershott. Arpaio said he was "duped" by Hendershott, whom he fired due to a host of policy violations and other allegations (though Arpaio soon allowed him to retire).
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As official documents show, Sands seems to have been crucial in making sure the callous ambitions of Arpaio and Hendershott were conducted in ways that would be palatable to the courts. During a 2010 investigation of Arpaio's office by an Arpaio ally, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, Sands portrayed himself as someone who didn't want to let Hendershott round up as many illegal immigrants as possible just for the headlines. But Sands' concern in the matter appears to have been related only to the inability of federal officials to receive so many detainees at one time.
During testimony before Judge Snow in July of 2012, Sands remained loyal to his boss and claimed there was a "disconnect" between what the sheriff believed and what deputies actually did in the field. Defense lawyers in the racial profiling case argued that the evidence showed Arpaio ordered -- directly or indirectly -- his staff to conduct immigrant sweeps in areas that had been the source of complaints about day laborers and Spanish-speakers. Sands agreed that sometimes had been the case.
Lisa Allen, Arpaio's spokeswoman, says the sheriff's office has no plans to rehire Sands as a civilian, (as in the sort of "double-dip" that Hendershott had enjoyed), and that no replacement for him has yet been selected. In response to one of her questions, Allen aid that no disciplinary actions preceded Sands retirement.
It just seemed like the right time to leave.