Feathered Bastard

Mesa Police Chief George Gascon Will Testify Before House Judiciary Committee

What a difference a few hours make. I just received confirmation from Mesa Police Department PIO Edward Wessing that Police Chief George Gascon has been contacted by the House Judiciary Committee, and that he will testify Thursday, April 2 during the committee's 287(g) hearing.

In other words, it's on like Donkey Kong, gentlemen. By inviting Gascon to speak, the House Judiciary Committee has calmed the worries of pro-immigrant activists that the committee might be bowing to Arpaio's reputation as a showboat. Now that Arpaio's nemesis -- the man who out-maneuvered Arpaio during the MCSO's Mesa sweep last year --- has been invited to testify, the question remains as to whether or not the Republicans on the committee are dumb enough to call Arpaio as a minority witness.

Gascon, a 28-year veteran of the Los Angeles Police Department and ex-LAPD assistant chief, was hired by Mesa in 2006 after a national search. He has been a persistent critic of Arpaio, stating more than once that, "[Arpaio] is not a professional law enforcement officer."

The Mesa Chief's a Cuban immigrant, whose family fled the Castro regime when Gascon was 13 for asylum in the U.S. (For more on Gascon, check out my colleague Ray Stern's cover story on the chief from last year.) His enemies label him a liberal, which means that he's a cop with a genuine concern for civil liberties and the U.S. Constitution.

For example, per department guidelines, Mesa cops do not ask those they stop on traffic violations about their immigration status, unless detainees are suspected of committing felonies. This puts Gascon's men at odds with Arpaio's deputies, who have been accused of racial profiling because they stop people for DWB, "Driving While Brown," and then asking them whether or not they're in the country legally.

Even better, the mere mention of Gascon's name makes Arpaio turn red and sputter, as it did in June of last year when Arpaio lashed out at Gascon for taking steps to contain the circus garnered by the possible presence of Arpaio himself. Though Arpaio's planned sweep went forward, Arpaio did not set foot in Mesa, having been backed down by Gascon like a gunslinger at high noon.

Suddenly, the House Judiciary Committee's 287(g) hearing seems full of promise, and drama. Keep your eyes peeled to this blog as the situation develops.

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