Joe Arpaio Agrees to Cultural Training for Deputies in Guadalupe; County Supervisors Approve

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Guadalupe's come a long way from the days when Sheriff Joe Arpaio laid siege to its mean streets, hunting for illegal immigrants.

On Wednesday, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved two groundbreaking amendments to Guadalupe's contract for police protection with the Sheriff's Office.

The first requires that deputies assigned to the postage stamp-size town "receive cultural training unique to the town's history and celebrations."

The second allows the town to "request in writing that any Sheriff's Office staff be reassigned" from service to Guadalupe.

Guadalupe Mayor Rebecca Jimenez said the amendments, okayed both by Arpaio and the Guadalupe Town Council, were intended to improve relations between citizens of Guadalupe and the MCSO.

Those relations were ruptured severely when the town of 5,500 became the target of one of Arpaio's infamous immigration sweeps in 2008.

"The reality is, we can't afford our own police department, " said Jimenez. "So if we have to work with the MCSO, we should be able to get along with them -- or not fear them, at the very least."

That fear has been pervasive in recent years. Though the town pays $1.2 million per year for police protection, Guadalupe residents long have complained of harassment from the MCSO and slow response times.

They've also claimed that their town of one square mile was being used as a dumping ground for bad deputies.

The two-day 2008 sweep further exacerbated existing tensions. The military-style operation flooded the town with MCSO vehicles, deputies on horseback, a mobile command center, and an MCSO helicopter.

Scores of arrests of residents were made, only a handful of whom were undocumented.

The irony in Arpaio's sweep? The town is half Yaqui Indian, half Mexican-American. Many of Guadalupe's families have lived there for generations.

Deputies were stopping just about everyone who was brown in a town where nearly everyone is brown.

Jimenez, who was mayor at the time, confronted Arpaio at his command center, set up in the parking lot of a Family Dollar Store. With TV cameras rolling, Jimenez asked Arpaio to leave her town.

Arpaio was sputtering mad.

"You said you didn't want us back here tomorrow. Is that what you said?" asked Arpaio, outraged.

"Yes," answered Jimenez.

"Well, we will be back here tomorrow," promised Arpaio. "Full force!"

Arpaio also challenged her to find another law enforcement agency to provide police services.

"If you don't like the way I operate," Arpaio told her, "you go get your own police department. You've got 90 days to cancel your contract -- 90 days! You wanna cancel it? Feel free to."

Jimenez remained polite but firm.

"We'll look into that," she replied before walking away.

Jimenez did seek help from other agencies, but the town was unable to find another police department it could afford.

At the time, Guadalupe's mayor was elected from the council. Jimenez was voted out of the position, and a new mayor renewed the town's contract with the MCSO.

The town's mayor now is directly elected, and Jimenez emerged the victor in a May 2013 contest with incumbent Mayor Yolanda Solarez, who was seen as compliant to Arpaio.

Jimenez says she sought a new relationship with the MCSO as soon as she took office.

She requested that the MCSO reassign a deputy who had shot and killed a 19-year-old burglary suspect from Guadalupe in 2012, after the suspect allegedly threatened the deputy with a knife.

"The MCSO found it to be a justified shooting," Jimenez said. "Regardless, in a small town like that, you don't keep a deputy around that killed someone there."

The Sheriff's Office agreed, in part because it felt the safety of the deputy was an issue, says Jimenez.

Sometime before August, according to Jimenez, discussions began with Deputy Chief David Trombi, which resulted in the proposed amendments.

Jimenez says Trombi asked that she meet with Sheriff Arpaio. But Jimenez was wary. Arpaio had recently been found guilty of racial profiling by a federal judge, and she did not want to be part of a publicity stunt.

She was worried that her reluctance to accept a meeting might scotch the deal, but the MCSO negotiated in good faith, and Arpaio signed off on the changes.

"Community policing, that's the idea," Jimenez told me. "Will it happen in the near future? I can only do what I can do as mayor, like getting something passed like this today."

She said the next step will be to have a community forum with the MCSO and residents.

County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, whose district includes Guadalupe, praised the agreement.

"It's a first," she told me. "I'm very proud of Guadalupe, because they held to their standards . . . I'm glad they had the courage to do that. And the sheriff's people -- not the sheriff, but the sheriff's people -- have always worked with Guadalupe. I think they were glad to come to an agreement."

I'll give Arpaio credit for signing off on it and not making a media circus a prerequisite for the deal. It's best for Guadalupe and MCSO personnel who work there for such an agreement to be in place.

But the big kudos go to Jimenez, who made these amendments a priority of her administration.

She is a political star on the rise, one who actually cares about the people she serves, and she gets things done.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Stephen Lemons on Twitter at @StephenLemons.

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