Feathered Bastard

Joe Arpaio's Next Headache: Sal Reza Pushes Eric Holder to Take Over MCSO

Hot on the heels of news that Wells Fargo wants Joe Arpaio out of his pricey executive suites in the bank's downtown Phoenix tower, human rights activist Salvador Reza is raising the stakes, asking that Attorney General Eric Holder seek receivership over the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, effectively taking control of the day-to-day operations of Arpaio's law enforcement agency and its jails.

Reza was at the county Board of Supervisors this morning, promoting the idea. He, along with immigrant rights activists Lydia Guzman and the Rev. Liana Rowe, made a presentation during public comments, requesting that the BOS ask for a DOJ takeover of the MCSO. The Board did not comment on the request, but nativist supporters in the audience expressed their anger by vigorously shaking their heads in disapproval.

"The MCSO is a dysfunctional unit within the Maricopa County government," Reza told me afterward. "It cannot operate on its own anymore. It's frozen. There's no cooperation between the supervisors and the MCSO. There's no communications except through courts. Arpaio's going after judges, he's going after employees, he's going after supervisors, and [County Attorney] Andrew Thomas is helping him out. So basically it's not working, especially with Sheriff Joe Arpaio being under investigation by a federal grand jury. The best thing is for the feds to come and take over."

This latest campaign by Reza, a tenacious Joe-foe who has led massive marches against Arpaio in Phoenix and spearheaded the drive to force Arpaio from Wells Fargo with daily protests, actually began on January 31 at the National Latino Congreso in El Paso, Texas. There, at a congress of Hispanic leaders, politicians, activists and union leaders from across the country, Reza introduced a resolution urging Attorney General Holder to take over the MCSO. It passed unanimously.

The resolution, which you can read in its entirety, here, recommends that Holder, "exercise receivership of Maricopa County Sheriff Office functions until Maricopa County Jails and Enforcement comply with the constitutional rule of law." It also demands that "Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio be prevented by the U.S. Attorney General Office from exercising any law enforcement authority until Grand Jury and Justice Department investigations are resolved."

Before you scoff, keep in mind that the DOJ is still investigating the MCSO for civil rights violations, and that should that investigation end in the DOJ suing the MCSO, a court-appointed receivership -- such as has been previously forced upon the D.C. jails and the California prison system -- could be one possible outcome, even if it seems improbable.

"That's what they said about Arpaio getting kicked out of Wells Fargo," chuckled Reza. "In fact some reporters, even at the New Times, compared me to Don Quixote [when the Wells Fargo campaign started]. This is only the beginning."

Lesson learned, Senor Reza. No more Don Quixote for you. From now on, it's all Pancho Villa, baby.

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