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Don't Bet on Arpaio Resigning Over the El Mirage Botched Sex-Crime Cases

Sheriff Joe Arpaio pulled yet another ho-hum raid on a restaurant franchise recently, hunting illegal immigrants. At a Si Senor Mexican eatery in Chandler, sheriff's deputies scored five — count 'em, five — workers suspected of using fake ID.

Arpaio's self-congratulatory press release on this paltry haul called it his 56th such operation. Given his druthers, the sheriff might work his way through the kitchens of nearly every restaurant in Sand Land, learning in the process that — Shazam! — the people who peel potatoes and wash dishes in that industry are almost always here illegally from south of the border.

But Joe's latest use of a law enforcement blunderbuss to off a pond of minnows scored him almost zero press.

Perhaps Arpaio thought the weekend Chandler raid would help divert attention from his latest scandal — the MCSO's gross negligence in failing to properly investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases in El Mirage. He was wrong.

The public has been enraged by the Associated Press' account of the scandal, and the local news media has been piling on mercilessly. Elected Democratic officials have joined the call by activists for Arpaio's resignation. Even our two Republican U.S. senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain, have expressed "concern" over Arpaio's obvious neglect.

Fresh from the victory over ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce, Citizens for a Better Arizona and its co-founder Randy Parraz are leading the charge for Arpaio's head on a pike, setting sights on his fiscal bosses at the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors in hopes of pressuring them to seek Arpaio's political harakiri.

Folks seem particularly incensed by Arpaio's lame mea culpa for the bungle, one in which he "apologized" with the preface, "If there were any victims."

Of course, there were victims, including scores of children. But, as both my colleagues Ray Stern and James King have pointed out in several blog posts, this tale of the El Mirage outrage is not new.

Indeed, the East Valley Tribune first probed the El Mirage debacle in the 2008 series that earned two of its scribes a Pulitzer Prize. The MCSO's bungling extended beyond sex crimes to homicides and other transgressions.

But in 2008, the public really didn't give a flip. All the yahoo majority cared about was that Arpaio — through a series of unconstitutional sweeps of Latino neighborhoods that utilized racial profiling as a strategy — was rounding up Messcans left and right.

So all of a sudden, the public wants Arpaio to begin acting like a real law man and prioritize child molesters instead of illegal dishwashers and cooks?

Not that I'm complaining, but where have you numbskulls been all these years?

Actually, the electorate has never demanded that Arpaio embody the role of professional law enforcement officer. Scandal has plagued his administration almost since it began nearly two decades ago.

You practically could fill Burton Barr Central Library with all the cover stories and columns New Times has published exposing the sheriff.

From Arpaio's framing enemies and ginning up the specter of fake death threats against himself to a body count of unconvicted inmates who've either died from the abuse of guards, other prisoners, or from medical neglect in his vast incarceration complex.

New Times has pointed out — over and over — that Arpaio is the most sued sheriff in the nation, that wrongful deaths in his horribly run facilities have cost county taxpayers more than $50 million (at last count) in legal fees, lawsuit payouts, and settlements.

The majority of the voting public shrugged. No matter how egregious the wrongdoing — no matter the depth of the corruption — Arpaio had the public's number.

He gave them bread and circuses, stunts, and shuck and jive. Pink underwear and jail stripes and a broken tank that had to be pulled around like a Christmas parade float.

When nativist hatred toward the undocumented began to rise in 2005-06, Arpaio ditched his cavils that being illegally present in the United States was not a crime. He transformed the MCSO into a county version of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. People ate it up.

Subsequently, the MCSO's scandals have grown to gargantuan proportions.

Arpaio teemed up with now-disgraced former County Attorney Andrew Thomas, pursuing vendettas against county judges and supervisors and even newspapermen, like Village Voice Media executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin.

Later came the so-called "Munnell memo," exposing the illegal activities of Arpaio's then-Chief Deputy David Hendershott, the outside investigation of Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, the results of which are still being sifted through; the theft by Arpaio's office of $100 million in county funds; and Arpaio's laughable testimony in the State Bar of Arizona's disciplinary proceedings against co-conspirator Andrew Thomas, in which his favorite phrase under oath was "I don't recall."

If Arpaio's not going to resign after all this, and after being investigated by a federal grand jury for criminal abuse-of-power violations, do you really think he's going to resign over botched sex-crime cases in El Mirage?

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons