Feathered Bastard

The Sheriff's Office's CYA report to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on the Honduran project.

What did the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors know about the MCSO's Honduras project and when did they know it? That's still an open question as the BOS's flack Deanne Poulos released documents Friday revealing the times that aid to Honduras was discussed before the Board of Supervisors. The first, dated October 17, 2007, deals with the acceptance of a $4,000 contribution from the Sheriff's Posse to the MCSO for "the Honduran Sister City project." (Talk about lending yourself money!) The second, dated January 16, 2008, mentions the donation of surplus computers to Honduras. The third and most significant is from February 4 of this year, a presentation made by the MCSO's Deputy Chief Mary Ellen Sheppard, Captain James Miller, and Captain Pat Lopez, all Sheriff's Office bigwigs who have traveled to Honduras to help train law enforcement down there.

The document, titled "Maricopa County Sheriff's Office & Honduras National Police: Partnership for Service and Justice," reads like a justification of the Honduran escapade, a CYA doc to soothe some wrinkled foreheads and raised eyebrows. According to PIO Poulos, it was submitted at an "informal meeting" for the Supes on 2/4/08. She further indicated in an e-mail, "This was not an action item, but a presentation only."

I received these docs while I was out of the office, and haven't been able to follow up with further questions. But I will. In the meantime, this bare-bones rationale for the Sheriff's Office having its own foreign policy is worth a read just to see how lame and misleading the MCSO is being about this project.

The thing starts with the sort of bull you'd expect from a Peace Corps pamphlet:

"Transnational cultural diversity is a reality for both agencies."

"With the sharing of cultures also comes the sharing of problems."

"The Honduran National Police wants to modernize and professionalize its police force."

Whew! What's next, a photo of David Hendershott and some Honduran cop making pottery together? The report reveals the stunning info that there are actually Hondurans who come to the U.S. illegally, and some of them end up being involved in crime! Shucks, really, Batman? Then the report-writers try this line that MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, is a Honduran gang. That's a Jabba the Hendershott-sized pant load. Yes, there are Hondurans involved in MS-13, but it's more strongly linked to the country of El Salvador, and it actually originated in Los Angeles. Don't take my word for it. Check out what the freakin' FBI has to say:

MS-13, which started in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, has an estimated 8,000-10,000 members nationwide, mostly Salvadoran nationals or first generation Salvadoran Americans but also including Hondurans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, and other Central and South American immigrants. Members often wear clothing or sport tattoos incorporating MS-13 or the number 13.

The MCSO presentation then trots out Governor Napolitano's proclamation making June 5 "Bay Island Sister Agency Project for Justice and Service Day," showing the pic of Nappy with Sheriff Joe, Hendershott and Honduran cops (see below). Essentially, the MCSO is using the Governor's proclamation as an endorsement, though it's County Attorney Candy Thomas whose office has oversight on the use of RICO funds, which is of course how the MCSO paid for this boondoggle.

Governor Napolitano doing our Sheriff a little favor...

Interestingly, the doc's timeline states that "a letter of introduction" was sent to Sheriff Joe on August 1, 2006, which got the ball rolling. Also, the MCSO states in this timeline that during the week in June that four Honduran cops were flown up here on RICO money -- the same week they got the proclamation from Janet -- the MCSO gave a "Presentation to Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox." Obviously, I'll have to try and speak with Supervisor Wilcox for her response.

The training, the report tells us, was in homicide investigations, sexual crime investigations, and "Serious/Fatal Traffic Accident Reconstruction." Excuse me, but WTF?! The MCSO's using our money to put Honduran cops through traffic school?

At last, we get to the program's cost, which the MCSO states as "RICO: $28,809.35" and "Budget: $5,252.46." This I know is bogus because when I crunch the numbers from the reimbursement requests the MCSO has given me for nine out of the ten deputies who participated, the figure is closer to $32K in RICO money used. (The reimbursement requests from the 10th guy will drive that up.) As for "budget" expenses, take a look at the man-hours yourself, here. Leaving out paid holidays and personal leave, there are about 2700 hours on the county clock, some of it OT. I don't know what these top-level deputies are making, but I'm guessing it's pretty good jack. So that $5,252.46 number is WAY-way-way-way low.

Sheriff Arpaio has said he's "suspended" the program. And later he said he was "reviewing it." However, this presentation's "Future Program Objectives" lists training 260 Honduran officers on "Ethics, Policy, Drug Recognition, Domestic Violence, Anti-corruption, [and] Internal Affairs." You've got to be kidding me -- the MCSO teaching ethics and anti-corruption? That's like getting Amy Winehouse to teach rehab, or Jamie Lynn Spears to teach abstinence.

What are your bets this story will end up on Channel 12 as "a 12 News exclusive"? I'm starting to feel like an unpaid producer over here. But as long as they're piling on Arpaio and the status quo in Sand Land, I reckon I can live with them using me as a cheat sheet.

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