Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's pink panties are in a bit of a wad after an Ohio mayor refused to grant police officers in his city the permission to come to Arizona and train with the MCSO's Drug Recognition Unit, which Arpaio says is one of the best drug recognition training programs in the world.
Columbus, Ohio Mayor Michael Coleman joined a nation-wide boycott of all things Arizona in July of last year, following the implementation of SB 1070, Arizona's controversial illegal immigration law.
Today, three officers from the Columbus Police Department were supposed to come to Arizona to train with Arpaio's boys in beige. Thanks to Coleman's boycott, only one showed up.
"How could any mayor turn down the chance for his police officers to be instructed by the very best trainers in the country, all because one individual did not support Arizona's immigration law," the sheriff says. "Personal feelings and political philosophies should never outweigh public safety."
(Insert jab here about how Arpaio's political philosophy on illegal immigration has outweighed public safety for nearly two decades).
According to Arpaio, of the three Columbus police officers who were supposed to train with his Drug Recognition Unit today, one opted to get similar training in California, and another adhered to Coleman's directive to steer clear of the Grand Canyon State. A third officer used personal vacation time so he could receive the training from the MCSO.
Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety is as perturbed as America's self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff."
"Maricopa County Sheriff's Office drug recognition training is the premiere program of its kind in the country," Gutier says. "Any other mayor would be thrilled to send police officers to receive the kind of training they provide."
Arpaio's Drug Recognition Unit trains officers in how to identify what drugs a motorist might be under the influence of during a traffic stop, MCSO Officer Chris Hegstrom explains to New Times.
"When a deputy pulls over a car with a suspect for driving under the influence, the deputy will run a roadside sobriety test," Hegstrom says. "If it appears the suspect is under the influence but no alcohol indicators are present -- i.e. smell, bottles in the car -- the deputy will contact a [Drug Recognition Unit] to run tests for other inhibitors consumed by the suspect."
The program is run by MCSO Sergeant Paul White and, according the MCSO, is "nationally acclaimed" -- the program has trained law enforcement officers from as far away as England, Germany, and Australia, as well as officers from 37 states.
Arpaio says he's considering inviting Mayor Coleman to come to Phoenix and visit his immigration yard at Tent City, and to go on a ride-along with MCSO deputies during an "employer sanctions operation" (a.k.a illegal immigrant roundup -- the MCSO's yet to arrest a single employer during any of its "employer sanctions operations").
Calls to Coleman's office to see if he'd be interested in taking Arpaio up on such an offer were not immediately returned this afternoon.
Check back for updates.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.