To the taciturn law enforcement veteran, it was more evidence that he was employed not in a normal police force, respected for its prowess in catching criminals and making communities safer, but something akin to a perpetual carnival act.
In 2010, Sands witnessed the office mired in a corruption scandal that resulted in the dismissal of Arpaio's right-hand man, Chief Deputy David Hendershott, and another top commander, Larry Black. Sands wasn't picked by Arpaio to be the new chief deputy -- instead, the job went to the longtime head of jail operations, Jerry Sheridan, whom Sands considers incompetent.
With Hendershott gone, Arpaio wanted Sands to head up fundraising for his 2012 re-election campaign.
According to Sands, he had come to see Arpaio's long reign as bad for the office. He says it began to dawn on him then that leadership at the agency was a charade whose fundamental mission was to pump up Arpaio's ego and get him elected again and again. Then came Seagal -- the next "dog-and-pony show," as Sands deems Arpaio's publicity stunts in his book. Sands went along with the sheriff's desire to give the aging actor what he wanted, but he didn't like it.
Making his first public statements since retiring last year, Sands complained about Seagal to a TV news reporter in January. Since then, the former executive chief has written and self-published the book about his time with the MCSO, Arpaio De Facto Lawman. Sands' annoyance with the department's relationship with the actor takes up several pages. Seagal, in early 2010, had a position as an occasionally working reserve deputy in Jefferson Parish, Lousiana, and was filming the second season of the A&E TV series Steven Seagal: Lawman.
The star of Hard to Kill, Machete, and more than 40 other movies had taken a smidgen of deputy training in the 1980s, after another larger-than-life sheriff, Louisiana's Harry Lee, brought him onto the force. Over the years, Lee, who died in 2007, had allowed the action star and martial arts expert to "train" deputies and play at policing in the suburbs of New Orleans.
Seagal began shooting his reality show in 2008. But in April 2010, Jefferson Parish's new sheriff, Newell Normand, brought down the curtain after Seagal got sued by an ex-employee of his production company for alleged sexual assault. Seagal denied the allegation, and the woman dropped her suit a few months later having never filed a criminal complaint.
Yet Segal resigned his position rather than submit to a pending internal investigation into the matter, Normand's spokesman told New Times for a March 2011 article. Not long after that, Seagal showed up in Arizona and joined Arpaio's newly formed "illegal-immigration posse." Seagal also said he would purchase and donate several automatic rifles to the county's SWAT team.
In his book, Sands describes how Seagal had been "run off" from Jefferson Parish and how the actor "used very profane words" in talking about Sheriff Normand. Sands says he was "suspicious" of Seagal but that Arpaio was desperate to have the celebrity around. Sands agreed to work with Seagal on condition that Lisa Allen, the sheriff's spokeswoman, would have nothing to do with the project. She had taken charge of the similar Police Women of Maricopa County show, and it had become a disaster, Sands says in the book, mainly because Allen misappropriated deputies and didn't know how to get "film-worthy footage" like he did.
Seagal wanted to be a commissioned deputy so he could continue playing a lawman but lacked basic training for the job. Arpaio, never afraid to spend public funds, suggested creating a new academy just for Seagal and other volunteers. But Seagal lost his enthusiasm for the idea after he was told he'd have to submit to a polygraph test as part of his background check, Sands claims in De Facto Lawman.
Chief Deputy Sheridan's wife, a real estate agent, brokered the purchase of a $3.5 million Scottsdale home for Seagal. Sands found the deal unseemly. Yet the book also details how Sands and his spouse were flown to Vancouver by the eccentric actor to watch him film a different TV series, paying for the couple's hotel stay and a limo to fetch them from the airport.
When they returned, Sands allowed Seagal to perform traffic stops and other work while the production crew filmed. Seagal complained that he wasn't doing enough "felony stops," his handler says in the book. Sands met with Harvey Wilson, the A&E show's producer, and pitched an idea for Seagal's Lawman.
"I told Wilson I thought the approach for the program was to develop a warrants team to go after absconders," Sands writes. "He thought that was a great format, and Seagal later agreed."
Sands offered the MCSO's "most experienced and professional people" for the actor to choose from as his team for the show. The plan was to let Seagal start with low-risk warrants and work his way up, once he gained experience. But low-risk makes for boring TV. Sands says Seagal still wasn't happy.
Sands lost patience. When Seagal's entourage was stopped in Cave Creek for speeding, Seagal yelled at a deputy, according to Sands, and no citation was issued. (Allen later told reporters that Seagal denied that the incident ever happened.)
Sands told Arpaio and Sheridan that Seagal should be let go, warning them that the actor would might embarrass the office as he had Jefferson Parish's. And Sands accused Sheridan of ingratiating himself to Seagal for personal reasons.
The Sheriff's Office made headlines worldwide in March 2011 when Seagal -- driving an armored car -- and his film crew helped raid the property of a cockfighting suspect. After the December 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Arpaio had the actor head up "training" for deputies, inviting the news media to watch one of the exercises. Sands retired a few months later.