The Goldwater Institute has released a harsh critique of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office -- concluding that the office "falls seriously short in all three of the core components of its mission" and calling for policy reform.
Among other things, the Phoenix-based libertarian think tank calls for the incoming U.S. attorney to investigate the sheriff's jails and for the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to "regularly and carefully" audit the sheriff's crime statistics and expenditures.
The report, released Monday, echoes many of the complaints that New Times has made for years, and relies heavily on the East Valley Tribune's excellent series about the agency's failures. But what makes the report so remarkable is its very existence: While libertarian in its orientation, the Goldwater Institute is enormously influential among Arizona Republicans off all stripes. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas worked with its resident wonks in an aborted effort to ban affirmative action here. Sheriff Arpaio himself popped up at the Institute's annual banquet two years ago.
But the report's author, Clint Bolick, says he initially started looking at the sheriff's record during his highly publicized immigration sweeps. "I looked into jurisdictional boundaries and was surprised to find that the Sheriff has authority to police other jurisdictions without notice or coordination, which, if exercised irresponsibly, amounts to law-enforcement anarchy," he told New Times in an email. "And I was shocked to find that no one has responsibility to serve warrants, which is appalling given more than 40,000 outstanding felony warrants. All of that led us to look deeper."
Bolick's 17-page report is chock with footnotes. It presents a compelling case against Arpaio in terms that any conservative could understand.
"Although MCSO is adept at self-promotion and is an unquestionably 'tough' law-enforcement agency, under its watch violent crime rates have recently soared, both in absolute terms and relative to other jurisdictions," Bolick writes. "It has diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration and in reducing crime generally, and to extensive trips by MCSO officials to Honduras for purposes that are nebulous at best."
Bolick continues, "MCSO has allowed a huge backlog of outstanding warrants to accumulate, and has seriously disadvantaged local police departments by closing satellite booking facilities. ... Compounding the substantive problems are chronically poor record-keeping and reporting of statistics, coupled with resistance to public disclosure."
Damn! For once, we couldn't have said it better.
Just 24 hours after its release, Bolick reports that the response has been "mixed, vast, and passionate." Feedback is running more positive than negative, with Bolick estimating that three of every five have been positive. "Those who actually have read the report tend to be more supportive," he adds.
We know for a fact that the report has caught the Legislature's eye. (Suffice to say, we checked in with a few of our favorite state reps this morning.) And we were highly bemused to see Arpaio's lame response in the Republic.
In typical style, Arpaio chose to call out Bolick rather than deal with its substance.
"When you talk about the Civil Liberties Union, I think they treat me better than this guy does," Arpaio told the newspaper. "I never had any trouble in fourteen years with the Goldwater Institute, and I've done a lot of controversial things."
Warning to Clint Bolick: You've definitely got an enemy now.
Bigger warning to Arpaio: There's a reason that smart people of all political stripes have turned on you. You've made it impossible for any rational human being to defend your administration.
We highly recommend that all New Times readers check out the complete report, available online here. But for all you online trolls, who like to post comments defending the senile old sheriff just because he's stopping illegals, we'd like to point you towards one particular passage:
"Immigration enforcement is important," Bolick writes. "But in its decision to add to its law-enforcement duties those of a 'full-fledged anti-illegal immigration agency,' MCSO has accomplished neither task well. By diverting precious law-enforcement resources on high-profile, extremely expensive, yet low-yielding immigration sweeps, MCSO has undermined its effectiveness in its core mission of protecting the lives and property of the people who look to it for protection. And by failing to coordinate its raids with local police authorities, MCSO places law-enforcement officers and citizens at great risk."
We can tell you right now, if they can't pin this on the sheriff's stance on immigration, the little trolls' next move will be to point out that every writer at New Times is a Mexican-loving socialist. We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but when it comes to knocking down a report from the Goldwater Institute, that argument just ain't gonna fly. -- Sarah Fenske