Feathered Bastard

George Gascon Slams Joe Arpaio and MCSO "Incompetence" on Horizonte

The July 30 episode of Horizonte featuring George Gascon

If you caught the recent story about ex-Mesa Police Chief George Gascon inviting Sheriff Joe Arpaio to an Italian dinner in San Fran now that Gascon's the top dog there, you might've been tempted to think Gascon had gone soft on Arpaio.

That is, until you see on Joe's Twitter page that Gascon made the invite en Espanol. Heh. Our septuagenarian Sheriff doesn't even seem to understand that he's being messed with.

"I just opened up a very nice card from George Gascon! Very nice of him to write me and invite me to join him for an Italian dinner," Joe pecked, excitedly (assuming he writes these things, instead of one of his flunkies).

"Here is a picture of that card that I believe is from Chief Gascon," Arpaio follows-up, with a link to a pic of the card. Catch that, "I believe is from"? Apparently, the Spanish befuddled Maricopa County's meanest senior citizen.

Nah, Gascon's not making nicey-nicey with Joe. Just check out the embed above of the July 30 broadcast of Horizonte, filmed on July 24, Gascon's last day on the job, and the second day of a three-day anti-immigrant sweep in the East Valley by the MCSO. Gascon discussed several issues with host Jose Cardenas, but of course, one of those issues was Arpaio, and the inefficiencies of the sheriff's office.

Cardenas asked Gascon if the criticisms of Arpaio's office made in the William Finnegan New Yorker piece, as well as in reports by the conservative Goldwater Institute, were valid. Gascon replied in the affirmative.

"They are very legitimate criticisms," Gascon told Cardenas. "I still have a hard time understanding how people that would generally be very smart people, very sophisticated, are willing to overlook a great deal of incompetence by the office of the sheriff's department in this county in how they deal with their primary functions..."

Gascon went on to speak from the authority of reducing crime a whopping 31 percent in Mesa during his tenure as police chief there.

"Crime in the areas that are being policed by the sheriff's office," he said, "has continued to go up for the last several years at the same time that in neighboring cities, and certainly in Mesa, crime has gone down. You have to ask yourself that if...illegal immigration is the problem and the reason for the crime here, then you have to assume that [Arpaio's] style of policing would reduce crime as opposed to having the increase that he has experienced.

"We know in policing that what he's doing makes absolutely no sense," continued Gascon. "It's contrary to good community policing, to good policing in general. There have been cases where they have actually classified homicides as suicides, when they are clearly homicide related. I mean, there are horror stories after horror stories about malpractice in policing with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, and yet he gets a pass."

Why does Arpaio get a pass? In recent years, it has to do with the entrenched anti-Mexican bigotry of so many Sand Land-ers. This is my observation, not Gascon's. Certainly, there are other reasons: Arizona's pervasive, reactionary law-and-order mentality; the persistent ineptitude of the local Democratic Party; former Gov. Janet Napolitano's collaboration with the sheriff; and so on.

But for the last few years, Arpaio has diverted attention from his office's bumbling ineffectiveness with a high-profile campaign against Hispanics. This is, sadly, popular with Arizonans, even when it is demonstrated to them, over and over again, that Arpaio's diversion of resources for chasing brown people is nefarious and counterproductive.

Early on in the program, Gascon described a situation where a Mesa resident complained that he had sent a "Mexican officer" to deal with her problem, instead of a white officer. And she wanted a white officer.

"That was very shocking to me," Gascon commented. "Because she felt very comfortable using that language."

Yet it's just that sort of attitude that Arpaio is exploiting to his benefit. Bigotry is irrational. And those guilty of it are not readily susceptible to reason, and logic. Which is why Arpaio thrives, even though he continues to be a doddering menace to law enforcement. 

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