Parade of Fools: Brian Sands Can't Distance Himself From the Bad Acts Detailed in His Book

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Brian Sands met Joe Arpaio for the first time in 1992, just after the sheriff won his first election in part by vowing to serve just one term.

Before joining the MCSO in 1983, Sands spent eight years in the Army, working for a time as a tank commander. His first job at the agency was detention officer. After six months, he attended the police academy, then hit the streets as a patrol officer. Three years later, he became a detective and task force member assigned to work with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. He was assigned to homicide in 1991.

One day, while Sands and his old narcotics partner, Ray Jones, were in a Phoenix cop-uniform store, Arpaio walked in and said hello to Jones, whom he knew. The sheriff, a former DEA agent, asked Sands what he was working on. The detective admitted that he was the last detective still investigating the infamous Buddhist Temple Murder case, which had been tainted by the coerced false confessions of four Tucson men arrested for the crime.

"That's nothing to be proud of," Arpaio said gruffly.

But Sands hadn't been part of the screwup that caused Sheriff Tom Agnos to lose to Arpaio. He came through Arpaio's investigation of the MCSO's actions in the case unscathed.

Weeks after meeting the new boss, Sands was promoted to sergeant, beginning his rise up the ladder at the MCSO. He returned to patrol for a few years, then was promoted to lieutenant. For two years, he worked as executive assistant to the new chief deputy, Hendershott. By 2005, he'd risen to deputy chief; he was one of the agency's two executive chiefs (Freeman was the other) when he retired last year. The first time Sands learned that Arpaio was a publicity hound was soon after he made sergeant. At the end of a press conference touting the arrests of some murder suspects, Sands thanked Arpaio for recognizing his deputies' hard work.

"He gave me a very strange look -- which I never have forgotten -- and didn't say a word," Sands writes in De Facto Lawman. A fellow sergeant told him, "This isn't about the deputies," it's about the sheriff.

Sands was assigned to enforcement support as a sergeant, but he found out this often meant PR support. He describes how, for an anti-prostitution press conference, he had to bring in full-time employees to beef up the number of posse members the sheriff wanted to parade before TV cameras. Arpaio even invited the Jerry Springer Show to join the operation. Springer watched from Sands' car as a detective busted a suspected prostitute, he writes.

A case involving mutilated animals in the desert, which Arpaio's office touted as possible witchcraft, later was believed to be the work of coyotes. This kicked off Arpaio's long-running anti-animal-abuse schtick, according to Sands. The way he tells it, Arpaio loves voters who love animals, not necessarily the animals themselves. He writes that he once teased Arpaio about getting a dog, telling him it would be "good public relations." "Shut up," Arpaio responded. He says the sheriff remains petless.

In 1997, when sheriff's deputies helped secure a property near New River where a man had stored homemade explosives, Sands was upset that spokeswoman Lisa Allen was "directing command staff on what should be done." After a three-mile evacuation zone was created around the munitions bunker, Allen told Sands and other supervisors that they "needed to set up a plan to house animals and pets in the schoolyard. Further, she added we should provide clowns and ice cream for the children."

Sands eventually was moved from patrol to the threats division, ostensibly to protect the sheriff from people out to do him harm. Most of the threats were "talk," Sands says, and Arpaio "would comment . . . that he would have to act like he was afraid." At times, he says, it seemed his job was to write media releases about the threats, then develop criminal cases around them, instead of the other way around. Indeed, the book blames nearly every questionable thing Arpaio did on the sheriff's thirst for attention.

"The drive is so intense about him wanting to get media," Sands says in an interview. "He challenges the staff: 'Get me a good drug bust!' 'Get me a good murder case!'" Arpaio's point always was to pander to fringe groups that could help him get elected, Sands says. One moral consequence of the office's endless publicity stunts, Sands says, is the waste of public resources.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.