A recall committee that includes several prominent defense attorneys and the founders of the political action group Mothers Against Arpaio plans to launch a Recall Joe Arpaio campaign to coincide with a PBS television special critical of the sheriff scheduled to air in early March.
"We are very serious about this," says Linda Saville, co-founder of Mothers Against Arpaio. You may remember that MAA -- whose members' loved ones were killed, maimed or otherwise mistreated in Arpaio's gulags -- protested fiercely last fall against the brain-addled geezer's reelection.
But don't think for a moment that the recall group is composed of just the usual Arpaio naysayers. Its chairman is to be the wife of Maricopa County Deputy Sean Pearce, who was shot last December in a SWAT raid gone bad.
Pearce has been highly critical of Arpaio's handling of the SWAT team, saying the sheriff placed the public and deputies in unnecessary danger by reducing the number of personnel on the team just after his reelection.
The injured deputy's wife, Melissa Pearce, is to be the point person for Recall Joe Arpaio. Melissa isn't afraid of a fight. She angrily brushed off Arpaio and his top aide, Chief Deputy David Hendershott, after they went to the hospital to see Pearce and another deputy who had been wounded in the shootout.
Melissa and Sean Pearce are part of a well-connected family with strong political and religious affiliations.
Sean's father is state Representative Russell K. Pearce, who has long been a powerful political force in the East Valley and is currently chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Russell Pearce also served as a Maricopa County sheriff's deputy for 23 years, including a stint as chief deputy. He received the Medal of Valor after being shot and critically wounded by a gang member.
Russell Pearce is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and Mormon leaders are noted around here for their ability to muster votes. Mormonism also happens to be the religion practiced by former Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Salmon, who has a major ax to grind with Outlaw Joe.
Now chairman of the state Republican party, Salmon is bitter over fellow Republican Arpaio's endorsement of Democrat Janet Napolitano in the final stages of the 2002 governor's race. The election was a cliffhanger, and many Republicans believe Arpaio's television commercial supporting Napolitano was the difference in the race.
Arpaio could find himself at the center of the perfect storm.
He could be in the middle of a three-way squeeze from disgruntled East Valley Republicans, angry employees (remember also that the union that represents Arpaio's own sheriff's deputies backed his opponent in the September Republican primary) and infuriated relatives of those he's abused in the jails.
I say to these intrepid recall folks: Bring it on!
Arpaio could have trouble surviving a recall election where his dreadful policies and performance aren't obscured by other races on the ballot.
The recall effort couldn't come at a more critical time. To those who were disappointed that Arpaio wasn't unseated by retired Mesa police commander Dan Saban, it seemed that all was lost. That Arpaio would be around for four more years.
Now, there's hope.
Arpaio has repeatedly displayed disregard for basic constitutional protections. His arrogant dismissal of civil rights protections has created a hostile climate inside his jails where death, serious injury, starvation and illness are the norm.
The sheriff's latest intrusion into personal privacy is his new policy of asking traffic violators to "voluntarily" provide fingerprints to be entered into a database and shared with other law enforcement agencies. Upon learning of this notion, defense attorneys and civil rights advocates immediately reminded Arpaio that the policy is illegal.
But Outlaw Joe doesn't care. This is a guy who wanted to set up illegal roadblocks on highways leading into Maricopa County to search vehicles for drugs. That idea was shot down a dozen years ago by former county attorney Rick Romley.
Arpaio is eager to violate the law in his quest to be hailed as "America's Toughest Sheriff."
The public can't wait for gutless members of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors to do anything about the geriatric renegade, such as conducting a thorough financial and performance audit of the sheriff's office.
Nor can the public put faith in state, federal and county prosecutors to conduct probes into a mountain of serious allegations of wrongdoing. None of these officials appears to have the slightest interest in investigating Arpaio's wayward department.