The incessant criticism of Sheriff Joe from other politicians, the media, law enforcement officials, activists, and ordinary citizens must be taking its toll on our corrupt top constable. His big interview in Sunday's Republic is obviously part of a media campaign to polish his tarnished image, one he continued on KTAR 92.3FM host Jay Lawrence's Sunday evening program. Lawrence is probably the closest thing KTAR has to a liberal. That is to say, he's a conservative, but not a bug-eyed, bloviating lunatic like KTAR's bigoted morning hate jock Darrell Ankarlo.
On Lawrence's show, Joe spent most of his time defending his sorry, anti-immigrant sweeps and alleging "a little conspiracy" amongst those who're complaining about him to the U.S. Justice Department. (The latest letter-writer asking for an investigation of the MCSO is Joe-foe and tort titan Mike Manning -- read his stinging missive to the feds, here). The Sheriff also took some calls, bantering with KTAR listeners and trying to make himself seem human. This being KTAR, most of the calls were attaboys from Joe supporters, but there was one caller, an American guy of Mexican descent who challenged a traffic stop MCSO deputies made of him recently while he was on his way home from work.
The man said he doesn't speak a lick of Spanish, and has a valid Arizona driver's license. Yet, when deputies pulled him for an inoperative tail light, they questioned him about his residency. Even after he told them he was born here, they asked him who his parents were, and other questions aimed at determining nationality. They also informed him that they had to search his car, and proceeded to do so.
The chap then asked Arpaio what all this had to do with a minor traffic stop. Arpaio asked the guy if he got a ticket. The man said no. "So what are you complaining about?" wondered the Sheriff. I'm going from memory here, but Lawrence asked Joe if he thought such treatment was "untoward." Joe replied in the negative, saying his officers are trained by ICE, yadda-yadda-yadda.
Maybe the caller didn't get a ticket, but at the very least what the MCSO did was harassment, harassment done because the guy was a Hispanic. Joe, apparently, doesn't see anything wrong with that, even though it's an obvious example of racial profiling.
In the Republic's Q & A with the Sheriff, some of which is offered on video at azcentral.com, Joe denied that the more than 40,000 felony warrants outstanding in Maricopa County are his problem. He also suggested that all of the criticism and complaints are from Democrats, and therefore politically motivated.
The op-ed in the same issue of the Republic by U.S. Marshal for Arizona David Gonzales disproves both of those assertions. Gonzales is a Republican, and he had been mentioned months back by some as a possible contender in the GOP primary for Sheriff. The editorial offers a dispassionate assessment of Joe's failure as a law enforcement official. As for those warrants, Gonzales writes,
"Sheriff Joe Arpaio believes that his office is simply the depository for the paperwork and that it is the police agency conducting the investigation that is responsible foe serving the warrants.
"The rest of law enforcement, however, feels that the job of hunting local fugitives is traditionally a sheriff's department responsibility."
The rest of law enforcement...? Nice. Remember that Gonzales is a federal agent overseeing the entire state. His words are therefore especially damning.
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Gonzales ain't the only Republican on Joe's back. Republican former County Attorney Rick Romley is supporting Joe's general election foe Dan Saban, and there are plenty of other Republicans who are sick of Joe and want him put out to pasture. Four years ago, the Republican leadership lined up against Joe, refusing to back the aged lawman.
The good news about all this is that the pressure against Joe is working, or at least seems to be. Last week was the third week since the Guadalupe raid that Joe has not gone into Mesa or some other town with his anti-brown sweeps. Joe was embarrassed in Guadalupe, and had to beat a tactical retreat back to his Mesa substation after Mayor Rebecca Jimenez demanded he leave her burg.
In Mesa, Police Chief George Gascon has asked for two days advance notice of any future sweep in a public letter to the Sheriff, and the Sheriff has grudgingly said he would give Gascon that notice.
Joe's often full of bluster, telling people he won't back down, but for the last three weeks, he has backed down. Maybe this weekend -- the Cinco de Mayo weekend -- is when he'll restart the sweeps. But there's plenty of evidence that Arpaio's been hurt by these dastardly dragnets, and that opposition to them makes an impact on the Sheriff's future plans. All the more reason for people to continue making noise about Joe's police-state tactics, and opposing these unconstitutional sweeps with all the passion they can muster.