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The Bird Dogs Joe Arpaio About Conan O’Brien and His Actions in the West Valley

SHERIFF SPENDTHRIFT

Even if you're one of those gap-toothed hillbillies who hate illegal immigrants and want nothing more than Arizona's population to be as pale as Anderson Cooper's ass, you have to admit that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's latest operation in the West Valley was a colossal waste of cash.

Headquartered in a lot in the windy armpit of Interstate 10 and Miller Road, Arpaio's military-style operation featured 200 deputies and posse members for each day of the two-day operation, scores of marked and unmarked MCSO vehicles, and several huge mobile processing trailers.

The Bird has put in a public-records request to try to get its wings around how much this overblown stunt cost us all. But while we wait eons for the MCSO to cough up the numbers, consider the paltry result of all those county resources: Fifty-two people arrested, only 14 of whom were suspected of being in the country illegally.

Fourteen?! The Phoenix Police Department often gets two or three times that in one drop-house raid. In a raid in July, for instance, the Phoenix po-po, along with the assistance of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, took down a drop house with 50 suspected undocumented immigrants in it.

Indeed, on the first day of Sheriff Joe's Operation Overkill, the Phoenix PD and the Arizona Department of Public Safety, in a separate action, busted a drop house on the west side of town, with seven victims and five suspected smugglers, a total of 12 people. The victims were turned over to ICE for processing. The coyotes were arrested.

By contrast, Arpaio's wacky dragnet spent two whole days pulling people over on traffic violations. His deputies went about it in typical, meat-fisted MCSO fashion, in body armor, carrying assault rifles, and sometimes wearing ski masks. The whole thing reminded this warbler of that classic Monty Python sketch in which Graham Chapman and Eric Idle play Australian hunters who use a bazooka to down a mosquito.

During Joe's press conference on the first day of the sweep, Maricopa County's wanna-be General George Patton justified his outrageous operation by pointing to the area's reputation as a roadside dumping ground for dead bodies. And blamed the news media for not solving the buttload of slayings that have taken place on Joe's watch since 2002.

But when queried about why the MCSO hadn't solved the stack of murders, Joe whined, "We're here [now]. Give me a chance."

The MCSO's press release said the office had investigated "90 homicides" involving "38 Mexican nationals" since 2002, but Sheriff Alzheimer's had no idea how many of those homicides — if any — had been cleared.

Our doddering lawman also offered a unique theory of law enforcement in response to a query about how traffic stops would do the work of homicide detectives and crime-scene investigators.

"Maybe one of the violators might be the killers," offered Joe. "We might find some guns in [cars]. We may find some dead bodies. Most of your crimes that are solved in the United States are through traffic stops."

Someone should alert CNN's Nancy Grace. If the cops in Orlando really want to break that Caylee Anthony case, they should forget all that sleuthing, searching, and lab work, and pull over more people for driving with expired tags.

Indeed, on the first evening of the sweep, some of the big, bad criminals these masked sheriff's deputies were catching in the act included one little old lady left shivering in the cold at a Circle K after her car had been impounded by the MCSO because she was driving with outdated tags.

"I thought I was going to be arrested," the frail old woman told this tweeter, who had initially come upon the lady that night as she was in the back seat of an MCSO cruiser.

The Bird was alongside activist Dennis Gilman, who was working with CopWatch, a group that bird-dogs MCSO deputies during the sweeps and observes their activities. After coming upon this particular "investigation" in progress, this avian and Gilman were ordered away by a masked deputy, who informed us that he was an undercover cop and could not be filmed.

That's a crock, of course. How "undercover" could he be while in a marked MCSO vehicle? Later, the little old lady (an Anglo, by the way) told The Bird that once we were gone, Deputy Dumbass admitted to his partner that he'd spewed this malarkey so that we wouldn't photograph him. What he didn't know was that even before he'd ordered us away, Gilman had snagged a pic of the gendarme.

One other big collar of the night for the MCSO involved tearing a mother away from her crying children for an unpaid traffic ticket. Phoenix civil rights activist Sal Reza captured the children on film shortly after the arrest, which he observed. In a perverse twist on Toys for Tots, the deputy — who was also wearing a ski mask — offered the children small stuffed animals to calm them down. At one point, the deputy picked up the youngest child, a boy, and took him to his handcuffed mom, telling the kid, "Kiss your mommy goodbye."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons