Joe Arpaio's Top Monitor Pick Howard Safir Once Hit a Pregnant Lady with His Escalade, Thinks Stop-and-Frisk Is Cool | Valley Fever | Phoenix | Phoenix New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Phoenix, Arizona

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Joe Arpaio's Top Monitor Pick Howard Safir Once Hit a Pregnant Lady with His Escalade, Thinks Stop-and-Frisk Is Cool

Monday was a deadline set by federal Judge G. Murray Snow in the ACLU's big racial-profiling case Melendres v. Arpaio for plaintiffs and defendants to submit lists of prospective candidates for the position of court-appointed monitor over the MCSO. This, assuming the two sides could not agree on a monitor...
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Monday was a deadline set by federal Judge G. Murray Snow in the ACLU's big racial-profiling case Melendres v. Arpaio for plaintiffs and defendants to submit lists of prospective candidates for the position of court-appointed monitor over the MCSO.

This, assuming the two sides could not agree on a monitor.

No surprise, they didn't agree. And taking a look at the top pick of Arpaio and his legal lap dog Tim Casey, it's plain that they never really took the job of finding a monitor all that seriously.

Arpaio's numero uno is former NYPD police commissioner Howard Safir, who swooped into the administration of New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani after Giuliani axed William Bratton as commish, basically because Bratton was getting better press than Giuliani.

Safir was NYPD commissioner from 1996 to 2000, and he's taken credit for a historic drop in crime that was engineered in large part by Bratton's foresight and innovation as a law enforcement administrator and leader.

Not only is Safir a big apologist for the NYPD's notorious stop-and-frisk policy,but in a 2010 incident that will remind you of Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne's vehicular hit-and-run, Safir backed into pregnant lady with his Cadillac Escalade while leaving a spot on the Upper East Side where he was double-parked.

Um, and no, he did not stop.

The New York Times reported on the incident at the time and spoke to the victim, Joanne Valarezo.

Here's an excerpt:

Ms. Valarezo said in a telephone interview on Friday night that she was on a break from her job at a doctor's office and had gone to buy socks for her unborn child when she was hit.

"I was crossing the street in between cars and he hit reverse, and his female passenger screamed, 'Are you not looking, there's someone there,' and as he was reversing, he hit me on my shoulder and my knee and the side of my stomach," she said.

Then he started to drive away, she said.

"I confronted him and I said, 'I'm pregnant. Did you not see?' And he just disregarded that and kept going," she said. She said if the passenger had not screamed, causing her to turn, she would been hurt more seriously.

Ms. Valarezo said her unborn baby, a boy, "is fine now, thank God. Everything looks good with my child."

Ms. Valarezo said she did not recognize the driver.

Told he was a former police commissioner, she said: "Are you serious? Oh, my God, I did not know that. Wow. O.K., that would explain why all these detectives came to see me. I had detectives come see me in the hospital, and nobody told me who he was."

She added: "I'm shaking now. So he has been caught?"

Told he was found but not charged, Ms. Valarezo said, "Really."

Then she laughed.

She asked for his name, and when given it, said, "You would think that a man who abides by the law should follow it."

Seems the responding cops, and later the Manhattan district attorney, decided that no laws had been broken.

But there's more, much more.

The Times says Safir was once "a heralded federal marshal," but that his rep took a beating (pardon the phrase) during his time as commish, due to two cases of police brutality: the 1997, in-custody assault of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima by NYPD cops, who sodomized Louima with a plunger handle, and the 1999 police killing of Amadou Diallo, an unarmed immigrant from the African nation of Guinea, in a hail of 41 bullets.

More recently, in an editorial for the New York Daily News, Safir blasted federal Judge Shira Scheindlin's attempts to put limitations on the NYPD's use of the controversial stop-and-frisk policy aimed at minority males. He also hailed a recent appeals court decision staying Scheindlin's decision.

"What Scheindlin failed to understand," wrote Safir in his October 31 diatribe, "is that stop-and-frisk is not a policy, it is a tactic that is legal and most often based on the description of victims and reasonable suspicion."

In July, Safir opined, also in the Daily News, against a city bill, which he described as allowing,

"...any convicted criminal to litigate whether his or her `stop and frisk' was lawful would cause police officers to hesitate to engage those they suspect are committing crimes."

In the same piece, Safir wrote of stop-and-frisk that, "Alleged racial profiling has been the clarion call of pandering politicians who want to take this important tool away from the NYPD."

Who better to oversee a program ending the MCSO's use of racial profiling in stops of Latinos in Maricopa County?

Interestingly, Safir's resume starts off with a stint at the now-defunct Federal Bureau of Narcotics, where Arpaio began his federal law enforcement career after being a local cop in Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas.

The MCSO's second and third choices are relative nobodies by comparison: Ronald Sanchez of Veritas Assurance Group, and Joseph Wolfinger of Wolfinger and Company.

In his resume, Wolfinger cites his being the FBI guy who cracked the Walker spy ring back in the day as being his life's major achievement.

Which has zip to do with monitoring a police force, but at least he didn't back into a pregnant lady and drive away.

(Note: See update below.)

The ACLU's suggestions pale, controversy-wise. At first blush, Joseph Brann, seems a solid possibility.

A former municipal police chief in California, he's a big community policing guy, once having been tapped by President Clinton to be the "founding director" of the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, according to his resume.

Brann touts his experience working on monitoring teams around the country, and as a "Federal Court Master" for a district court in Ohio.

But Tim Casey practically throws a conniption fit in print over the fact that one member of Brann's suggested monitoring team is former U.S. Attorney and Republican Paul Charlton, a frequent Arpaio critic.

Casey cites several instances of Charlton saying, in so many words, that Arpaio is an out-of-control, power-abusing racial-profiling so-and-so.

These comments are, of course, correct.

Hell, Arpaio's MCSO has been found guilty by Snow of prejudiced policing. Why do you think the court's reviewing monitor nominees, for cryin' out loud?

Charlton also recently joined the firm Steptoe and Johnson as a partner, Casey reminds the court. And Steptoe was once the plaintiffs' lead counsel in Melendres.

At one point, Charlton was representing former county Supervisor Don Stapley, whose civil complaint against Arpaio goes to trial in January.

But I think Casey forgets that Charlton is merely listed as one member of a team that Brann's proposal indicates is fluid. Charlton is not being proposed as the monitor.

Casey similarly objects to the ACLU's suggestion of Tim Nelson, former protege of Janet Napolitano when she was governor, and the 2008 Democratic nominee for Maricopa County Attorney. Nelson was a last minute suggestion. And he seems a long-shot.

Then there is the plaintiffs' final nominee Robert Warshaw, of Warshaw and Associates, about whom Casey has nothing bad to say. A former police chief in Rochester, New York, Warshaw, according to his application, "currently serves" as an independent monitor in U.S.A. v. City of Detroit, Delphine Allen v. City of Oakland, and People of the State of New York v. City of Niagra Falls and the Niagra Falls Police Department.

Also Warshaw "serves as the principle consultant to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in U.S.A. v. the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rico Police Department.

I see a couple of negative stories online, including one from 2012 about how Warshaw allegedly "hit on" a City of Oakland official. But the article suggests the issue may have been trumped up.

It states:

John Burris, a frequent critic of the [Oakland Police Department] and one of the lead lawyers in the 2003 case that led to the reform order, called the timing of the allegations against Warshaw "suspicious."

Burris noted that the allegations come on the heels of two reports critical of the Police Department's compliance with Henderson's ordered reforms, one by Warshaw and another by a second firm hired by the city.

I'll have to find out if the matter was ever resolved.

Still, it's not like the guy is accused of doing something horrible. You know, like backing into a pregnant woman with his SUV and continuing on his way.

UPDATE 10:59AM: My colleague Matt Hendley uncovered an interesting bit of info regarding allegations against Wolfinger over something called the "Pottsgate" affair.

An AP story from 2003 had the following description:

Wolfinger retired in 1999 as assistant director of the FBI training division and began working in November, 2000 for MPRI, a company that provides education and leadership training to governments and private companies around the world.

In 1997, he arranged a conference for managers who were coming to Washington for a retirement party for then-deputy FBI Director Larry Potts. The conference allowed the officials to claim government expenses for a trip they otherwise would have financed out of their own pockets, the inspector general report said.

In the article, Wolfinger denies any wrongdoing.

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