If the news releases posted on Maricopa County Sheriff's Office website are supposed to represent what Joe Arpaio's shop is doing lately, these must be the agency's dog days.
After 20 years of dog-and-pony shows from Arpaio, the intense focus on dogs has gotten to a ridiculous point. Something has to explain why seven out of 10 of the agency's news releases in the past month involve dogs, and why several of the releases were regurgitated from similar "news" on the site in December.
Possibly, the media team has lost its rudder since longtime Arpaio spokeswoman Lisa Allen decided she's leaving the actual office. Allen announced in January that she'd be leaving, and in February moved to another state, though she's still working from afar. In any case, the team's since been busy pumping out important stories like "MCSO K9 Kato Gets Vest" and "Ruff Times Ahead [for] MASH Dogs."
With Arpaio essentially neutered by a federal monitor in the long-running discrimination case against his agency, the sheriff seems to have put off his attacks on political enemies and undocumented immigrants in lieu of lighter law-enforcement fare.
Christopher Hegstrom, director of the MCSO Public Information Office, directed New Times to the MCSO news release section on Tuesday, refusing — once again — to e-mail newsworthy information to New Times, Arpaio's old nemesis, as he does for other media outlets. But in taking his advice and looking at the MCSO news-release page on Tuesday, the constant canine reports stood out
Eleven of 28 news releases since the beginning of the year involve dogs. In December, seven of 13 releases involve dogs. While most of the releases cover events for charity or donations for individual cop K9 units, some crime news about dogs also is prominently featured. If someone has sex with a dog, the public's likely to hear about it because enforcing bestiality laws is a priority for the sheriff.
In December, five news releases were about the donation of body armor for MCSO dogs Rakker, Nina, Kato, Chendo, Fredy, Hero, and Zeus. Over the past four weeks, the MCSO has informed the public that several of the dogs actually have received the body armor that was donated. Perhaps the frequent attempts to get the press to cover the donations was required by the company behind them, Vested Interest in K9s. Only a couple of TV stations covered the news releases about the donations.
Naturally, Hegstrom declined to comment about his office's recent strong focus on dog stories.
And for the record, the MCSO did finally agree to e-mail its releases to New Times as it does for other media.
Unfortunately, it's now obvious these releases have less value than ever — and that's saying something.