This site is in no way affiliated with law enforcement or the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department

Sheriff Joe Arpaio


Joseph M. Arpaio (born June 14, 1932 in Springfield, Massachusetts, United States) is a law enforcement officer and the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. Arpaio, who promotes himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” is controversial for his approach to operating the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. He has a large number of vocal supporters as well as detractors. His practices have been criticized by organizations such as Amnesty International,the American Civil Liberties Union, the Arizona Ecumenical Council, the American Jewish Committee, and the Arizona chapter of the Anti-Defamation League.

History and law-enforcement background

Arpaio enlisted in the United States Army and served from 1950 to 1953.

Following his discharge from the Army, he moved to Washington, D.C. and then to Las Vegas, Nevada, serving on the police force of both cities over a five-year period.

He married Ava Arpaio in 1956. The couple currently have two children and four grandchildren.

After his service for the local police forces of Washington, D.C. and Las Vegas, Arpaio obtained a job as a Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and stayed with them for over 32 years. During that time, he was stationed in both Turkey and Mexico, and eventually advanced to the position of head of the DEA’s Arizona branch where he served for four years before retirement.

Arpaio successfully campaigned for the office of Maricopa County Sheriff in 1992. Since then, he has successfully won re-election in 1996, 2000, and 2004 with considerable support of the county voters.
Actions as Maricopa County Sheriff

During his tenure as Maricopa County Sheriff, Arpaio has instituted or strengthened several of the following crime prevention programs:

* bicycle registration
* block watches
* child identification and fingerprinting
* Operation Identification (for marking valuables)
* Operation Notification (which identifies business owners during times of emergency)
* Project Lifeline (which provides free cellular phones to domestic violence victims)
* S.T.A.R.S. (Sheriffs Teaching Abuse Resistance to Students)
* an annual summer camp for kids near Payson.

One of the most successful programs maintained by Arpaio is the all-volunteer civilian Posse program. Though Maricopa County operated the Posse for 50 years prior to Arpaio’s election, Arpaio greatly expanded the program through heavy recruiting. The volunteers perform many duties for the sheriff’s office:

* search and rescue
* emergency communications
* prisoner transport
* traffic control
* backup for sworn deputies
* office administrative duties
* Holiday Mall Patrol (which provides motorist assistance and security for shoppers during the holiday shopping season)
* deadbeat parent details targeting men and women with outstanding arrest warrants for failure to pay child support.

Arpaio has also included on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office website an online deck of cards featuring pictures of deadbeat parents, amounts owed and last known whereabouts. Later, he published mugshots of all inmates booked into the county jail, which are available for viewing on the county website for three days after an inmate’s arrest.

In the fall of 2006, Arpaio could be seen in political advertisements for Proposition 204, which in effect limits animal cruelty in farming.

Changes to Jail Operations

Arpaio runs Maricopa County’s jails, which house inmates serving jail sentences, as well as pretrial detainees, who are legally innocent until proven guilty.

Arpaio believes that inmates should be treated as harshly as legally possible to emphasize the punishment aspect of their incarceration. Thus, upon his initial election, Arpaio began instituting the controversial changes for which he would later become noted.

Arpaio began to serve inmates surplus food including outdated and oxidized green bologna and limited meals to twice daily. Meal costs would be reduced to 90 cents per day; as of 2007 Arpaio states that he has managed to reduce costs to 30 cents per day. Certain food items were banned from the county jail, mainly coffee (which also reduced “coffee attacks” on corrections officers), but later salt and pepper were removed from the jail (at a purported taxpayer savings of $20,000/year).

Arpaio banned smoking in the county jail. He also removed pornographic magazines (the ban was later upheld in court) and weightlifting equipment. Entertainment was limited to G-rated movies; the cable TV system (mandated by court order) was blocked by Arpaio to limit viewing to those stations Arpaio deems to be “educational”, mainly Animal Planet, Disney Channel, The Weather Channel, A&E, CNN, and the local government access channel.

Arpaio also instituted a program for inmates to study while in jail and to try to recover from drug abuse. Hard Knocks High lays claim as the only approved high school program in any American jail. Another jail program, called ALPHA, is aimed solely at getting inmates away from drug abuse.

In October 2005, Arpaio started mandatory two-week English classes for non-English-speaking inmates at his jails. Classes last two hours a day. The curriculum comprises the three branches of government, how a bill becomes law, state government, law enforcement and court services, and jailhouse “situational” terminology. At the end of the two-week course, inmates are required to take a test to see how well they have learned about American government, the words to God Bless America, and the communication of health and safety needs. In response to critics, Arpaio responded, “These inmates happen to be incarcerated in the United States of America and in Maricopa County where I run the jails. We speak English here, not foreign languages.”

In February 2007, Arpaio instituted an in-house radio station he calls KJOE. Arpaio’s radio station broadcasts classical music, opera, Frank Sinatra hits, obscenity-free patriotic music, and educational programming, from the basement of the county jail, and operates five days a week, four hours each day.

In March 2007, the Maricopa County Jail hosted “Inmate Idol”, a takeoff on the popular TV show.

Tent City

Arpaio set-up a “Tent City” as an extension of the Maricopa County Jail. Although often cited by Arpaio as unique, many prisons and jails throughout the United States have used, and continue to use, tents to house inmates. Arpaio’s tent city jail has become notable particularly because of Phoenix’s extreme temperatures. Daytime temperatures inside the tents have been reported as high as 150 degrees in the top bunks. During the summer, fans and water are supplied in the tents.

When Arpaio took office, inmates were routinely being released early due to overcrowding. Arpaio believed that “courts, not head count” should determine when an inmate is released, and that no officer should be deterred from making an arrest for fear that the inmate would be released due to jail overcrowding.

However, a new jail would have cost Maricopa County taxpayers around US$70 million. So instead, Arpaio obtained surplus tents from the military, and established Tent City in a parking lot adjacent to one of the jail facilities. As an announcement to future inmates that they should not expect early release upon overcrowding, but more tents instead, Arpaio added a (pink neon) “Vacancy” sign to the outside of Tent City. The original sign was destroyed in an inmate riot, but was quickly replaced. A second Tent City was opened in 1996 adjacent to another jail facility, and houses female inmates.

According to former Sheriff’s Office employees, Arpaio emptied an entire floor of one jail to help fill the tent city when it was opened.

During the summer of 2003, when outside temperatures exceeded 110 ?F (43 ?C), which is higher than average, Arpaio said to complaining inmates, “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and the soldiers are living in tents and they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your damn mouths.” Inmates were given permission to wear only their pink underwear.

Tent City has been criticized by groups contending these are violations of human and constitutional rights, including British former prisoner and now journalist for The Guardian, Erwin James, but has been simultaneously praised by those favoring Arpaio’s “get tough on crime” approach.

In response to requests, the Sheriff’s office offers group tours of its unique and controversial Tent City. In addition, Arpaio has instituted “S.M.A.R.T.” Tents (Shocking Mainstream Adolescents into Resisting Temptation), a voluntary program for middle-school students who are bussed to an area adjacent to Tent City and, for the next 24 hours, are shown the reality of jail life.

Volunteer Chain Gangs

Shortly after taking office, Arpaio reinstituted chain gangs, a form of inmate labor that had been virtually eliminated in the United States. According to Arpaio, his chain gangs are not a form of punishment, but of rehabilitation.

Jail inmates with disciplinary problems are sent to lockdown, where they are confined to a four-person cell for 23 hours a day. Once in lockdown, low-risk inmates can volunteer for unpaid work on a chain gang as a step to rejoining the general jail population. After 30 days on the chain gang, inmates are eligible to rejoin the general population. Chain gangs perform public-service tasks such as creating fire breaks, cleaning up graffiti, weeding, removing trash, and burying deceased indigents in the county cemetery. They work eight-hours a day, six days a week, mainly outside. Like the rest of the county’s jail population, chain-gang members wear traditional black-and-white-striped uniforms and caps.

Arpaio later expanded the chain gang concept by instituting female volunteer chain gangs. Female inmates work seven hours a day (7 am to 2 pm), six days a week. He has also instituted the world’s first all-juvenile volunteer chain gang; volunteers earn high school credit toward a diploma.

Pink Underwear

One of Arpaio’s most visible public relations successes was the introduction of pink underwear, which the Maricopa County Sheriff’s website cites as being “world famous.” Arpaio has claimed that that traditional white underwear, labeled with Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, was being smuggled out of the jails and sold on the streets, and he thus had the underwear dyed pink, believing that pink is not considered a “macho” color, and would not be stolen.

Arpaio subsequently started to sell customized pink boxers (with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s logo and “Go Joe”) as a fund-raiser for Sheriff’s Posse Association. Despite allegations of misuse of funds received from these sales, Arpaio declined to provide an accounting for the money.

Arpaio’s success in gaining press coverage with the pink underwear resulted in him extending the use of the color. He introduced pink handcuffs, using the event to promote his book, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, America’s Toughest Sheriff. Later, Arpaio ordered that sheets, socks, towels, and other fabric items be dyed pink.

The outer uniform is not pink, but traditional black-and-white. This was part of another Arpaio-instituted change. One day, allegedly, Arpaio thought he saw an inmate escapee in the then-existing sea-green inmate uniform outside the jail (it turned out to be a hospital worker in scrubs). Later, he noted that the orange uniforms of the chain gangs were similar to uniforms used by county workers (the orange being needed for safety). Believing that inmates should be easily identifiable should they escape, Arpaio re-instituted the traditional black-and-white inmate uniforms, which even with the advent of everything else being pink has not changed.

Underwear March

In 2005, nearly 700 maximum-security prisoners were marched the four blocks from Towers Jail to the newly opened Lower Buckeye Jail, wearing only their underwear and flip-flops to prevent the concealment of weapons. Prisoners were strip-searched when they left Towers Jail and again when they reached their destination.

“It’s a security issue,” Arpaio said. “If you let them wear their clothes, they can conceal the fake keys and everything else.”

Webcasts of Pretrial Detainees

Starting in July 2000, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s website hosted Jail Cam, a 24-hour Internet webcast of images from cameras in the Madison Street Jail, a facility which processed and housed only pretrial detainees. The stated goals of the broadcasts were the deterrence of future crime and improved public scrutiny of jail procedures. The cameras showed arrestees being brought in in handcuffs, fingerprinted, booked, and taken to holding cells; with the site receiving millions of hits per day. Twenty-four former detainees brought suit against the Sheriff’s office, arguing that their Fourteenth Amendment rights of due process had been violated.

U.S. District Court Judge Earl H. Carroll held in favor of the former detainees, issuing an injunction ending the webcasts. By a 2 to 1 vote, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the injunction, with the majority opinion stating:

…Second, Sheriff Arpaio argues that the cameras are justified by the County?s interest in having its pretrial detention centers open to public scrutiny. We have given prison officials wide latitude in administering pretrial detention facilities, in guaranteeing detainees? attendance at trial, and in promoting prison safety. But we fail to see how turning pretrial detainees into the unwilling objects of the latest reality show serves any of these legitimate goals. As the Supreme Court has recognized, “[i]nmates . . . are not like animals in a zoo to be filmed and photographed at will by the public or by media reporters, however ?educational? the process may be for others.

In his dissenting opinion, Circuit Judge Carlos Bea wrote:

…What the majority avoids?perhaps because of the all-too-predictable result?is to ask the question basic to any review questioning the validity of governmental action under a rational basis analysis: were the webcasts reasonably related to the purpose of deterring public behavior that could result in pretrial detention? The answer clearly is Yes. … Similarly unexamined is the Sheriff?s purpose of providing transparency of jail operations as a civic good.

Sheriff Arpaio?s methods to achieve his purposes of public deterrence and governmental transparency may not suit the fine sensibilities of some group advocates and jurists. But absent a violation of the constitutional rights of Plaintiffs?and I see none?such differences of opinion must be vindicated, if at all, in the ballot box, not in the courtroom.

Policy on illegal Immigration

In 2005, Arizona passed a state law making it a felony, punishable by up to two years in jail, to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border. Smuggling illegal immigrants was already a federal crime, but Arizona passed its law, effectively authorizing local police to enforce immigration law, out of frustration that the federal government had not done enough to control illegal border crossings. Maricopa County Attorney Andrew P. Thomas issued a legal opinion that persons being smuggled can be considered co-conspirators to the smuggling and can be charged under the same law. In a court challenge to this interpretation, the law’s sponsor said it was never intended to target the immigrants themselves, only the smugglers. A judge upheld Thomas’s opinion, saying there was no evidence that legislators “intended to exclude any prosecution for conspiracy to commit human smuggling.”

Arpaio has instructed his sheriff’s deputies and members of his civilian posse to arrest illegal immigrants. Arpaio told the Washington Times, “My message is clear: If you come here and I catch you, you’re going straight to jail. [...] I’m not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico. I’ll give them a free ride to my jail.”

As of August 2006, there had been 263 arrests and 121 convictions of smugglers under the state law, often known as the Coyote law. No court had convicted a smuggled person as a co-conspirator.

In April 2008, an editorial in The New York Times denounced a proposed expansion of the local enforcement of immigration law to all of Arizona, offering immigration sweeps by the Maricopa County posse as an example of abuse of the program.

Alleged assassination conspiracy

James Saville was arrested in July 1999 for allegedly conspiring to murder Joe Arpaio with a pipe bomb. Saville had just completed an 18-month sentence for arson for attempting to blow up his high school by filling it with gas from 37 opened bunsen burners. While in prison, Saville had drawn crude bomb plans and expressed to a jailhouse snitch the desire to kill the prosecutor and judge in his arson case. He was arrested the day after his release while assembling a bomb in the presence of an undercover sheriff’s officer. A jury decided that undercover officers from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office had entrapped Saville by turning his assassination plans toward Sheriff Arpaio, and found Saville not guilty.

Failed recall petition

In November 2007 a group filed the paperwork to begin an effort to recall Arpaio and County Prosecutor Andrew P. Thomas from office for allegedly disobeying and violating the United States Constitution and abuse of power. Their petition to get a recall question for the two officials onto the next general election ballot failed when the group was unable to collect the more than 200,000 registered voter signatures required. In a survey taken by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication while the petition was in circulation, nearly three out of four respondents opposed the recall, and 65 percent of the respondents held a positive opinion of Arpaio.

Controversy and criticism

To several organizations such as the ACLU and Amnesty International, Arpaio’s actions may be based less on a desire to serve the public and to lower crime, but more on demagoguery and grandstanding that does not serve the public welfare. Amnesty International issued a report critical of the treatment of inmates in Maricopa County facilities. The family members of inmates who have died in jail custody have filed lawsuits against the sheriff?s office. The lawsuits have cost Maricopa County more than $43 million in settlement claims during Arpaio’s tenure.

From 2004 through November 2007, Arpaio was the target of 2,150 lawsuits in U.S. District Court and hundreds more in Maricopa County courts; 50 times as many prison-conditions lawsuits as the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston jail systems combined.

Arpaio is named in a class-action lawsuit, Hart v. Arpaio, brought by Phoenix attorney Debra Hill and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of jail inmates. The lawsuit centers on the treatment of pretrial detainees, who are legally innocent until proven guilty. The lawsuit claims that Arpaio is violating the constitutional rights of those detainees. The trial in the lawsuit began on August 12, 2008.

By mid-2007, more than $50 million in claims had been filed against the sheriff’s office and Maricopa County.

In her book on prison policy The Use of Force by Detention Officers, Arizona State University criminal justice professor Marie L. Griffin reported on a 1998 study commissioned by Arpaio to examine recidivism rates based on conditions of confinement. Comparing recidivism rates under Arpaio to those under his predecessor, the study found “there was no significant difference in recidivism observed between those offenders released in 1989-1990 and those released in 1994-1995.”

Enforcement acts of deputies and posse

Botched raid

In 2004, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office SWAT team led a raid on an Ahwatukee home in a gated subdivision, looking for illegal weapons. No illegal weapons were found, but during the raid, the house burned down, killing a dog, and an armored vehicle rolled into a neighbor’s parked car.

Prostitution sting

Sheriff Arpaio has been criticized for allowing his deputies and civilian posse members to engage in sex acts during an undercover prostitution “sting”. In November, 2003, Sheriff’s deputies arrested over 70 people for prostitution and solicitation. The officers arrested alleged prostitutes and their customers in more than thirty homes and ten massage parlors in the Phoenix area. Records indicated that several of the officers disrobed, fondled the breasts and genitals of the alleged prostitutes, and allowed their penises to be touched during the operation. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office stated that the Sheriff’s office had gone too far in allowing this behavior, and sixty of the cases were thrown out. Several of the male customers in the case were prosecuted, however.

Conflicts with local news media

Arrest of Phoenix New Times Executives

In October 2007, Arpaio’s deputies arrested Village Voice Media executives and Phoenix New Times editors Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin on charges of revealing grand jury secrets. In July 2004, the New Times had published Arpaio’s home address in the context of a story about his real estate dealings, which the county attorney’s office is investigating as a possible crime under Arizona state law. A special prosecutor served Village Voice Media with a subpoena ordering it to produce “all documents” related to the original real estate article, as well as “all Internet web site traffic information” to a number of articles that mentioned Arpaio. The prosecutor further ordered Village Voice Media to produce the IP addresses of all visitors to the Phoenix New Times website since January 1, 2004, as well as what websites those readers had been to prior to visiting. As an act of “civil disobedience,”Lacey and Larkin published the contents of the subpoena on or around October 18, which resulted in their arrests the same day. On the following day, the county attorney dropped the case after declining to pursue charges against the two. The Attorney General’s office has since been ordered to appear before Judge Ana Baca due to missing documentation – including the original grand jury subpoenas – in the case file for the investigation of the New Times publication.

On November 28, 2007, Judge Baca ruled that the subpoenas in this case were not validly issued. The special prosecutor filed the grand jury subpoenas without the consent of the grand jury. Baca’s justification was a statute that had been clarified by case law and by subsequent legislation to bar such subpoena authority, unless certain reporting requirements are met. The prosecutor had not met those reporting requirements. In April, 2008, the New Times editors filed suit against Arpaio, County Attorney Andrew Thomas and Special Prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, alleging negligence, conspiracy and racketeering, and State and U.S. constitutional violations of free speech rights, false imprisonment, retaliation by law enforcement and abuse of process.

Alleged Harassment of New Times Reporter

On June 11, 2008, Ray Stern, a reporter for the Phoenix New Times, was surrounded and intimidated by several deputies while trying to examine public records at the City of Phoenix public records counter. Stern called City Attorney Gary Verburg, who came down and instructed the deputies that Stern had the right to view the records. The deputies then threatened to simply arrest Stern on-the-spot. Later, a city “conflict resolution manager” walked up and laid down an Arizona law book. She pointed to the section of public records law that essentially says anyone can look at any public record during business hours. City Attorney Verburg told the deputies again that Stern had the right to look at any public record. Upon hearing that, the deputies warned Stern again that if he tried to look at the documents he would be arrested.

The events reported by the New Times are substantively verified in a memo drafted by Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Commander James Miller. In this memo, Miller states that the deputies did threaten to arrest Stern if he touched any of the records, and that he (Miller) held one of the records out in front of Stern, saying “take it”, to create a pretense to arrest Stern. Miller also reported that the situation escalated into a standoff with the Phoenix Police, when they warned him not to attempt to arrest Stern.

FOIA requests to mayor and other officials

In situations where government officials have been at odds with Arpaio, his office has used the Freedom of Information Act to make broad requests for records of their email and correspondence. The requests have been targeted against Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Maricopa County Court Administrator Marcus Reinkensmeyer, and most recently, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.

Starting in March, 2008, Gordon spoke out, in a number of high-profile speeches, against racial profiling by Arpaio. On April 24, Arpaio’s deputies issued a public-records request seeking the mayor’s e-mails, cell phone records, and meeting calendar, as well as e-mail correspondence for Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris, City Manager Frank Fairbanks, and all of Gordon’s administrative staff. The request covered every e-mail written by more than a dozen Phoenix staffers, from November to the date of the sheriff’s demand.

Fountain Hills prank calls case

During April 2004, Arpaio became involved in more controversy when he accused the West Bridgewater, Massachusetts Police Department of being unprofessional over their handling of surveillance tapes from an AT&T store that showed a suspect making prank calls to several restaurants. The calls instructed restaurant managers to strip-search female customers, including minors. Several managers were arrested as a result. Arpaio believed that the suspect in the tapes from West Bridgewater might be connected to a similar case in Fountain Hills, Arizona.

Courtesy of Wikipedia

-->

Phoenix Criminal Defense Lawyers

  • Advertisement