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

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According to Sands' book, Arpaio retaliated against Knight and Freeman for their damning statements in the Babeu probe, removing them from various investigations.

Arpaio threatened to demote them -- unless they agreed to apologize and "kiss his ass," Sands writes, claiming that's what Sheridan told him. Freeman supposedly did as asked, but Knight refused. Sheridan was prepared to demote Knight until he was told by the County Attorney's Office that if it happened, he'd be thrown in jail for retaliating against a whistle-blower, Sands claims.

One of the investigations taken from Freeman and given to Sands was the long-running, still-unfinished probe into how the MCSO had botched or failed to investigate hundreds of sex-crime cases ("Victims Wonder Why Arpaio Let Sex Abuse Cases Languish," February 16, 2012).

The problem was centered on the West Valley town of El Mirage, which had a contract for policing with the MCSO from 2005 to 2007. The agency took over El Mirage at a time when the MCSO sex-crimes department was understaffed, its members often tapped to work on Arpaio's pet programs, such as training police in Honduras. Meanwhile, investigation and follow-up on more than 400 cases proved to be minimal, and victims suffered injustice.

Munnell raised the problem in his memo, saying Hendershott had stalled a probe into the under-investigated cases for political purposes. The probe further withered after Hendershott was put on leave, then dismissed.

Sands was tasked with finishing the investigation. But, he writes, Arpaio didn't want it completed before the 2012 election because the findings could damage his campaign. Sands expresses his belief that Freeman, as a supervisor, seemed to be the most culpable. Yet Sands' logic here is interesting: Freeman sent a strongly worded letter to Hendershott in July 2005 asking for extra vehicles and personnel for the sex-crimes division and warning of dire consequences if the request wasn't approved. Hendershott told Sands he never received Freeman's letter. In Sands' view, then, Freeman should have resolved the problem since he knew about it.

In any case, Arpaio didn't want Freeman held accountable, Sands writes. So the matter "was basically dropped."

Naturally, Sands didn't finish his report until after the election -- which he claims was a coincidence.

The fact that Sands was part of the problem at the MCSO is on full display in the section of his book on immigration enforcement.

Sands attributes the department's initial interest in the federal 287(g) program, which allowed Arpaio's deputies to inquire about suspects' or jail inmates' immigration status to Sheridan, who ran the county jail system before his 2010 promotion. That's plausible because the federal program was used in the jails before a 2007 contract that gave immigrant-finding power to deputies on the street. But in detailing Arpaio and Sheridan's motives (publicity, as usual, in the sheriff's case) in launching their anti-migrant drive, Sands reveals himself to be a crucial, even callous, player.

For instance, he describes how Sheridan wanted to impress Republican state Representative John Kavanagh of Fountain Hills by busting "illegal aliens" that Kavanagh believed were hanging out in the town's famous Fountain Park. Sheridan allegedly argued with Sands, who says he didn't think the 287(g)-trained deputies could simply round up people. Sands writes that he called the commander of the MCSO's Fountain Hills satellite office, Captain John Kleinheinz, and asked him if he knew of any problems at the park. Kleinheinz asked immediately whether Kavanagh had raised the complaint.

"When I told him yes, he said there were no problems and [that] Kavanagh was just being a racist," Sands writes. "I agreed with him."

Sands increased patrols in the area, though, and ordered a patrol unit sent to the park. He claims in the book that if he didn't acquiesce, he'd end up getting into an argument with Arpaio.

Sands later was accused in the high-profile Melendres racial-profiling lawsuit -- which resulted in the federal monitor now in place at the MCSO -- of acting on racist tips that Arpaio had received from community members about "Mexicans" or about people speaking Spanish. In court, Sands denied apparent evidence that he chose the locations of the agency's notorious crime sweeps based on such tips. But Sands' Fountain Hills anecdote makes it clear that he was willing to do exactly that.

An example that Sands' main job was to find ways to carry out the sheriff's unethical demands without getting into legal trouble can be found in Sands' 2010 interview with Babeu's investigators.

In it, Sands recounts that during one Northwest Valley patrol in October 2008, Hendershott told a lieutenant under Sands that he was "to go out and round up as many illegal aliens as he could arrest."

About 50 immigrants were in custody, but Sands writes that he "shut it down" because the arrests weren't legal. Sands told Hendershott that the migrants had to be suspected of a state crime before deputies could inquire about immigration status.

Under Sands' direction, future sweeps made wide use of "pretext stops" of vehicles with broken taillights and cracked windshields, in an apparent effort to bust a high number of undocumented-immigrant violators who could then be deported by federal immigration authorities.

By book's end, Sands manages to smear not only the many MCSO honchos he worked alongside, but (inadvertently) himself.

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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.