The issue is whether Phoenix cops are going to be allowed to round up everyone they suspect of being illegal and turn them over to ICE. That's what Spencer, who is an ally of Sheriff Joe Arpaio's, wants. But he's not quite dumb enough to say it. If what Spencer did to Grijalva is okay, then all Phoenix cops will have to do is stop someone on suspicion of a low-level charge — a charge they'll never have to book — just so they can inquire about the individual's immigration status.
Sound like anyone you know? A certain desert lawman known for his racial-profiling sweeps of Hispanic neighborhoods?
Thankfully, the Phoenix PD's leadership doesn't want to go down the path Arpaio treads. Nor does it want another volatile situation like it saw in 2007 at Pruitt's Home Furnishings, where there was a tense standoff between nativists and immigration activists over the rousting of day laborers in that neighborhood.
For his part, Salvador Reza believes Spencer is testing the operations order to see what he can get away with. He said he did meet with Commander Crockett, and Crockett told him, "If someone commits a crime, they're going to jail." In other words, suspects should be booked, and ICE will not get called on something petty like trespassing.
I called the commander, and he referred me to Phoenix PD media affairs, which had yet to respond to my request for a comment as this column went to print.
But it all goes back to my original point of Spencer's being an insidious well-poisoner and pot-stirrer, not the haloed, gun-in-boot-wearin' man of the Lord that the Rep presents him as. Spencer would love to turn Phoenix PD into a mini-MCSO. Cooler heads stand in his way.
Why would the U.S. Department of Homeland Security want to work with a loose cannon like Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who tapes his officers' conversations with ICE and the DHS, then turns them over to the media as a PR stunt?
That's what happened when, after Joe's wrecking crew went through the Southeast Valley on another racial-profiling sweep, Homeland Security refused to take some of the undocumented people Joe had collared because they had no criminal histories.
That's the way the new ICE memorandum of agreement is supposed to work, but Joe was huffing and puffing that it wasn't fair, that he'd been promised he could arrest all the illegals he wanted until signing the new memorandum, which he has to do in fewer than 90 days.
Homeland Security told Arpaio how to start deportation proceedings on those suspected of being in the country illegally. That's a process that would allow the suspects to be released on their own recognizance after getting fingerprinted.
"On Thursday, ICE gave the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office permission to interview the three individuals in question, arrest, and initiate removal proceedings. Instead, Sheriff Arpaio released them," said Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler. "On Friday night, the Sheriff's Office was given specific instructions on how to institute immigration proceedings against any individuals suspected of being in this country illegally. However [it] declined to do so."
In fact, the tape-recording in question ends with an MCSO deputy saying, "So we're just going to kick them loose then . . ."
ICE even offered Joe's goons a less taxing option: issue the suspected illegals a letter telling them to report to ICE at a later date. But MCSO said nyet to this as well.
As always, Joe doesn't want to play by the rules. But what does Homeland Security expect of an agency that allows its officers to terrify civilians while wearing black ski masks, as was the case during this three-day sweep, as well as others?
I went to Chandler and Mesa to monitor the sweep Thursday and Saturday. On Thursday, the MCSO was stopping everyone who was brown, even non-Latinos.
Native American Isla Keyoite was pulled over because the ball-hitch on the back of her truck supposedly obscured her license plate, one of the most popular excuses for MCSO deputies that evening.
She was ticketed by Sergeant Brett Palmer, who famously told Mayor Gordon and other Arpaio critics to "shut up" during an MCSO press conference. Keyoite says he seemed disappointed when she rolled down her window and addressed Palmer in perfect English.
"It blew him away," she told me afterward. "That's when he told me about the license plate. I said, 'You're kidding me.' He said, 'No, I'm not.' I got out and was looking at it. I said, 'That's ridiculous.'"
In another incident, I watched a young Latino get arrested for an unresolved ticket on his record after he was pulled for alleged faulty brake lights. I observed one of his relatives check them after he was zip-tied and taken away. The lights appeared to be in perfect working order.