Sex-crime cases prompt calls for Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio quit
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has endured years of outrage over his aggressive policing style, which has involved “sweeps” of Latino neighborhoods that critics deride as racial profiling and such tactics as forcing Maricopa County prisoners to sleep in tents and don pink underwear.
Yet Arpaio remains a conservative luminary, his support sought by Texas Gov. Rick Perry when the GOP presidential hopeful was assailed as being soft on immigration.
Will this latest wave of Arpaio criticism fade as well?
The Phoenix-area lawman has been publicly flogged since a recent Associated Press story described how his department allegedly botched more than 400 sex-crime cases, including those involving child molestations with victims as young as 2. In many cases, after taking the initial report, sheriff’s deputies failed to do much else -- even when an alleged victim knew the suspected attacker.
Some of the reportedly slipshod investigations were concentrated in the Phoenix suburb of El Mirage, where Maricopa County provided law enforcement services from 2005 to 2007. After El Mirage brought back its Police Department, the AP said, investigators discovered that sheriff’s officials failed to properly investigate a number of reported sex crimes involving children of undocumented immigrants.
The mishandled investigations were reported as early as 2008 by the East Valley Tribune, but the AP’s national reach has helped stir up a particularly potent furor. Arpaio called a news conference last week to respond, though his apology -- “If there were any victims, I apologize to those victims” –- didn’t do much to quiet the mostly Democratic critics calling for his ouster.
While the state’s Republican senators, Jon Kyl and John McCain, did not directly attack Arpaio, they did release a statement last week saying, “Victims of abuse not only deserve the respect of law enforcement, but their rights must also be protected throughout the criminal justice process," the AP reported.
Now, Arpaio foes in Phoenix are trying to further stoke the uproar.
Members of Citizens for a Better Arizona plan to storm this week’s Maricopa County supervisors meeting and demand that they ask Arpaio to resign, the Arizona Republic reported. The group’s last target was state Sen. Russell Pearce, an immigration hawk and Arpaio ally who was booted from office in a recall election.
--Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio discusses this office's handling of sexual assault cases in El Mirage, Ariz., during a recent news conference. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press