Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Ex-Deputy Chief Brian Sands Dishes Dirt on Steven Seagal, Birthers, and More in Arpaio De Facto Lawman

I'm on deadline at the moment, but I would be remiss if I did not alert New Times' readers to an e-book by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's ex-Deputy Chief Brian Sands, titled Arpaio De Facto Lawman.

Sands left the MCSO last year after 30 years with the agency, following on the heels of Arpaio's high-profile loss in the ACLU's big racial-profiling case, Melendres v. Arpaio, which led to a federal judge's appointment of a monitor over the MCSO earlier this year.

When Sands retired, some law enforcement insiders speculated that Arpaio blamed Sands for the Melendres loss, since Sands organized Arpaio's infamous Hispanic-hunting sweeps.

However, in this mini-memoir, published on August 6, Sands claims Arpaio wanted him to stay on.

See also: -Joe Arpaio's (ahem) Legal Scholar Brett "Shut Up" Palmer and Flunky Brian Sands Under Oath

The deputy chief refused to do so, he says, because the sheriff's office was in such a "shambles," and a state of "constant managed chaos and damage control."

Um, as opposed to when, exactly?

Actually, throughout the book, Sands describes a dysfunctional law enforcement agency where PR flacks make law enforcement decisions, aged action heroes are granted carte blanche, and operations are organized primarily for the head honcho's self-aggrandizement.

Arpaio is depicted both as a narcissist obsessed with publicity to the exclusion of all else (surprise, surprise), and an artifact of another era in law enforcement, one unconcerned about such niceties as "probable cause," which Sands claims he's had to explain to the sheriff more than once.

Sands describes Arpaio as an "aficionado of procuring controversy," someone who could "develop anything into a press release."

Sands writes, "Everything with Arpaio has to have something to do with him directly or he is completely apathetic."

Hey, that's a shocker.

Sands says Joe's self-centered attitude infects his subordinates, who cater to his whims.

And he maintains that it helps explain why Arpaio's civilian mouthpiece Lisa Allen is allowed sway over the organization, despite what Sands regards as her ignorance of law enforcement.

According to Sands, Allen repeatedly injects herself into MCSO operations, giving commands, and one time supposedly demanding that clowns and ice cream be provided during the evacuation of a neighborhood.

Interestingly, Sands claims that Arpaio repeatedly resisted a suggestion that he acquire a pet dog, though Arpaio's built himself up as a defender of animals, having himself photographed with puppies and kittens, and making the arrests of animal abusers a high priority.

"Arpaio once told me that the aggressive animal abuse image he developed was a political goldmine, as it brought a number of Democrats into his base," Sands writes. "That certainly became apparent as I would hear people say they were against Arpaio, but because he defended animals, he was great."

Similarly, Sands says that "early on" Arpaio confided that "the posse was important to him simply for votes," and that it led to an increase in his political base.

Whenever Arpaio needed to put on a "dog and pony show," the volunteer posse was there, though requiring non-volunteer supervision, paid for with tax dollars.

The most high-profile member of Arpaio's posse is cheesy, bloated action star Steven Seagal, whom Sands has openly criticized since leaving office.

Sands doubles-down on his dislike for Seagal in the memoir, claiming the wannabe cop initially asked Arpaio for a deputy's commission, but balked at taking the necessary steps to become certified by Arizona's Police Officers Standards and Training Board.

Rather, Seagal is inducted into the posse, and, according to Sands, is soon a major pain in the rear to deputies who have to field his high-maintenance demands.

Still, Arpaio always allows Seagal to get his way.

Sands says that he visited Seagal while the actor was in Vancouver, Canada on a film shoot, and claims Seagal's assistants would respond to one-word commands, like "glasses," when Seagal wanted his eyeglasses brought to him, or "boots" to change his footwear.

The former deputy chief saves his most withering contempt for Arpaio's current Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, whom he labels a "weak leader," among other choice words.

Sheridan replaced former Chief Deputy David Hendershott, who was fired by Arpaio in 2011 in the aftermath of allegations made by deputy chief Frank Munnell, and an investigation into MCSO corruption, overseen (ironically) by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.

Sands insists that he didn't want the job of chief deputy, but he also relates telling Arpaio that he could not work for Sheridan under any circumstances.

There are more serious accusations in the book, including charges that the MCSO's narcotics division allowed marijuana and cocaine to "walk" during undercover operations.

That's a new one on me, and requires more examination. Unless it's something I've missed.

Additionally, Sands' dishes on subjects such as Arpaio's being envious of Sheriff Babeu, skulduggery surrounding the Munnell affair, Arpaio's obsession with investigating threats against himself, the MCSO's "birther" probe, and the alleged racism of certain MCSO personnel.

At the book's end, Sands promises a sequel. He claims he wanted to sever all ties with the MCSO, but he was called to "testify" by the U.S. Department of Justice, and writes that, "I suspect I will be called more in the future."

I haven't been able to reach Sands to ask him about his claims, or, more importantly, why for so many years he so slavishly served a sheriff that he apparently has such low regard for.

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