As we get closer to June 14 -- simultaneously Sheriff Joe Arpaio's 81st birthday and the date that parties in the racial profiling lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio are to appear before federal Judge G. Murray Snow -- the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office becomes more emphatic in its stated intent to nix (at least for the moment) its racial-profiling ways.
Last week, the Arizona Republic reported that the MCSO's notorious Human Smuggling Unit would no longer be patrolling county highways hunting Hispanics and that Arpaio's work site raids seeking undocumented workers have been placed on hold.
Fox News reported that the fear-inducing signs on MCSO vehicles asking citizens to "Help Sheriff Joe Arpaio Fight Illegal Immigration" by calling Joe's report-a-brown person number are being removed.
The number itself is now out of service.
And in a real eye-rolling moment pointed out by my colleague Matt Hendley, the MCSO issued a press release this week talking about how "six men walking in the desert" had been rescued by MCSO deputies, who "drove all six to the nearest convenience store at their request and then contacted Border Patrol to notify them of the situation."
Talk about bending over backwards. Or would that be forwards?
Then Friday, the Associated Press got in on the action, announcing that the MCSO had "temporarily suspended" its anti-immigration activities.
The AP quoted MCSO spokesman Brandon Jones as stating that, "We are out of the immigration business until that hearing," meaning the one on Joe's b-day.
And the piece de resistance, Arpaio's $1 million legal beagle Tim Casey told the AP that Snow's ruling was so important that, "It will invariably impact individual rights and law enforcement operations throughout the United States."
Wow, way to kiss up to the judge, Tim. One question: If the ruling is so significant (and I agree that it is) then why have you already signaled that an appeal is in the works, an appeal that could cost the county another $2 million?
If the appeal is lost, that could mean $2 million added to the $1 million we've already shelled out to Casey, the more than $1 million we owe the plaintiffs' attorneys in Melendres, and the $837,744 billed by the county's defense attorneys in the lawsuit brought by U.S. Department of Justice, which covers some of the same ground as Melendres.
All of this pre-hearing posturing on the part of Casey, Arpaio and the MCSO is done, as I pointed out in my column this week, in the hopes that the MCSO can avoid the independent monitor the plaintiffs' attorneys want appointed to enforce Snow's order.
Meanwhile, members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, chaired by the Frank Burns of county politics, Andy Kunasek, has avoided saying whether or not they will fund an appeal, save for Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, who is already on record as stating she's against it.
Which brings us to Dennis Gilman's latest video, where he opens with Arpaio shrugging off all these pesky lawsuits, saying, to the chuckles of his admirers, "When I go to the toilet, they sue me."
Then Gilman goes right into anti-Arpaio activist Beto Soto's brilliant challenge of the supes during a recent BOS meeting, where Soto hones in on Chairman Kunasek.
"Arpaio's case is coming up next week, and we need to know where you stand," Soto tells them, asking, "With racist Arpaio, or with Latino families?"
Kunasek basically has a melt-down, ordering Soto out of the meeting. When Soto finally leaves, there is applause.
Which is interesting, because it wasn't so long ago that applause like that got people arrested, as Kunasek looked on and did nothing.
There are three new members on the BOS, and they all watched Soto with what looks like anxiety.
The choice is theirs, and it is just as Soto put it to them. They can either turn the page on this ugly chapter of Arizona history, or they can double-down on an old, bigoted man on his way out.
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