Joe Arpaio/MCSO Lawyer Explains Some Actual Objections to Justice Department Monitor

If you've heard Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's explanations for why negotiations with the Justice Department broke down, he makes it sound as if Attorney General Eric Holder himself wants to be the new sheriff.

It's the proposed Justice Department "monitor" that people in the MCSO's corner are objecting to -- defined as the person or people who would have "the opportunity to review and approve all new guidelines and plans before their implementation by the MCSO" -- and Arpaio/MCSO lawyer Joe Popolizio has offered his explanation of what a few of the actual objections are.

The monitor was supposed to make sure Arpaio and company got the ball rolling on changes in the right direction, on the heels of a Justice Department investigation that found massive racial-profiling in the Sheriff's Office, as opposed to Arpaio's half-assed attempt, in the form of a 17-page booklet.

Arpaio's flak released a three-page memo from Popolizio, explaining the objections to specific language about the monitor, which can be found in full at the bottom of this post.

The first objection is this line from the DoJ draft agreement: "All new and revised policies, procedures, processes, and training must be approved by the Monitor and the Department of Justice ("DOJ") prior to implementation."

Popolizio believes that language gives the monitor veto power over Arpaio, setting up the monitor for "broad control" over the MCSO.

CNN quoted Arpaio
on a specific objection to that, as he thought the monitor might hinder his ability to put out press releases.

Popolizio's reasoning for this theory is more of an interpretation of the language in the agreement, rather than the actual words spelled out by the Justice Department.

"This 'Monitor' is by the DOJ's own definition a usurpation of Sheriff Arpaio's authority, and certainly exceeds the power to conduct interim reviews of MCSO compliance and to issue corresponding reports," Popolizio says.

Wherever that "definition" is, it certainly isn't in the Justice Department's proposed agreement.

Popolizio's other objection is the establishment of an Office of Inspector General for the MCSO, which would generally write up reports nitpicking things the sheriff's office does. OIGs are pretty common in counties across the country.

Again, on this issue, Popolizio provides the actual text from the agreement, along with his interpretation.

"Constitutional policing rests on consistent and unbiased assessment of a law enforcement agency's policies and practices," the DoJ's description of the position reads. "To that end, the County shall establish an Office of the Inspector General ("OIG") to ensure MCSO's continued compliance with constitutional policing. The OIG shall carry out its responsibilities through three distinct areas of activity: Compliance Audits, Complaint Investigation and Adjudication, and Public Reporting."

Somehow, Popolizio contends this is another takeover of the MCSO, saying, "The OIG provides additional, unprecedented control of the Maricopa County Sheriff and the MCSO."

Pointing to a section to prove his point that the OIG's powers are "almost unlimited," Popolizio cites this bullet point from the agreement:

The Sheriff and MCSO personnel shall be required to cooperate fully with the OIG. The OIG shall have access to any MCSO personnel and facilities, subject to limitations imposed by law. The Sheriff and MCSO personnel shall promptly provide complete and unrestricted access to the OIG to inspect records, reports of audits, IA investigations, and complaints from MCSO's D Services. The OIG shall evaluate these reports, audits, and investigations to assess their quality, completeness, and findings.

Why giving an auditor access to MCSO records is an objectionable proposal isn't explained by Popolizio.

This fear and rejection of the monitor is the main reason the negotiations broke down, and why the Justice Department filed a lawsuit, but according to text in the DoJ lawsuit, MCSO doesn't really have that much of a say over it, since Arpaio's office relies on federal funds that came with some contractual agreements:

Defendant Maricopa County (the County) is a political subdivision of the State of Arizona. The County is responsible for funding MCSO. The County's programs and activities receive federal financial assistance, including from DOJ. As recipient of federal funds, the County is responsible for ensuring -- and it has made contractual assurances that it will ensure -- that the programs or activities to which it distributes those funds, including programs administered by MCSO, comply with federal law.

Either way, the MCSO still contends it's a full-on takeover of the sheriff's office.

"Our hope is that this information clarifies the misconceptions about the DOJ defined 'Monitor' and demonstrates the DOJ's real desire to control the Sheriff and the MCSO rather than to merely audit it," Arpaio's head flak Lisa Allen writes to reporters. "We are providing this material to all media outlets covering this story as an effort to help explain our position - that Sheriff Arpaio, while wanting a resolution and to find common ground, will not turn over control of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to the federal government."

Popolizio's memo, which points out each section of the draft agreement that's getting the MCSO's collective undies in a bunch, can be found below, so you can judge for yourself whether it looks like the federal government's trying to take over:

Joe Popolizio Memo

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley