Racial Profiling Is Only One of the Many Ways Former Sheriff Joe Arpaio Failed to do His Job
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio gestures to the crowd as he delivers a speech on the fourth day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News
Following President Donald Trump’s inability to call out the white nationalists who have incited violence in the last several weeks, several speakers at an Arizona rally on Tuesday evening tried to reinforce the idea that the president isn’t racist. However, any gains they made were obliterated when Trump stepped on the stage and ranted for about 75 minutes, according to the Washington Post. He blamed the media for the racial tension gripping the nation, threatened to shut down the government to fund the border wall, and he ardently defended former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“Do people in this room like Sheriff Joe?” he asked the crowd. “So, was Sheriff Joe convicted for doing his job? He shoulda had a jury, but you know what, I’ll make a prediction: I think he’s gonna be just fine, OK?”
While Trump may prefer to distance himself from reality, we don’t. Arpaio tyrannized black and brown communities for two decades. He stepped outside or ignored the law so he could enact discriminatory policies, some of which still affect those he targeted, despite being unseated in November. A judge didn’t convict Arpaio “for doing his job,” but because he was guilty. And it’s not the only case of Arpaio failing to protect those he was supposed to serve.
He racially profiled people of color.
This is why Joe Arpaio’s in this position in the first place. US District Judge Susan Bolton found Arpaio guilty for disobeying a 2011 judge’s order to put an end to the racial profiling of Latinos, according to the Los Angeles Times. Three weeks ago, a judge found Arpaio guilty of contempt of court for not putting an end to traffic patrols that targeted immigrants and Latinos following a court order.
He kept prisoners in inhumane conditions.
In his first year as sheriff, Arpaio installed the inhumane Tent City – an open-air jail where inmates endured extreme weather and forcibly wore pink underwear. Arpaio touted Tent City as a cheap alternative to overcrowded jails. In reality, it’s where most inmates ended up. Arpaio’s successor, Sheriff Paul Penzone, announced his plans to shutter Tent City in April, according to AZ Central.
Arpaio, whose legacy is largely tied to Tent City, spoke about the shuttering in the same way that one may speak about losing a beloved institution to encroaching gentrification. “I’m so proud of the fact that I started this. Once you get those tents down, you will never get them up again because the city of Phoenix has to issue a permit,” he forlornly said. “Do you think the city will issue a permit when half of the city council hates the tents? They will be gone forever and that’s sad.” But this place that fills him with so much nostalgia treats people like subhumans. Arpaio himself has called it a concentration camp in the past.
This is only scratching the surface. A 2015 Phoenix New Times article explored the number of suicides that took place inside his jails and talked about the deplorable health care conditions for the inmates.
He didn't investigate hundreds of sexual assault cases involving children.
Between 2004 and 2007, Arpaio’s office mishandled at least 400 sexual assault cases, some of which were allegations of child molestation. According to Rewire, in most of the cases, his office either didn’t investigate the cases or did so poorly. A police officer told the Associated Press that a large percentage of the victims were the children of undocumented immigrants, a group that Arpaio has targeted.
He retaliated against those exercising their First Amendment rights.
In 2011, the US Department of Justice wrote, “We find that MCSO command staff and deputies have engaged in a pattern or practice of retaliating against individuals for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech. Under the direction of Sheriff Arpaio and other command staff, MCSO deputies have sought to silence individuals who have publicly spoken out and participated in protected demonstrations against the policies and practices of MCSO-often over its immigration policies. MCSO command staff and deputies have arrested individuals without cause, filed meritless complaints against the political adversaries of Sheriff Arpaio, and initiated unfounded civil lawsuits and investigations against individuals critical of MCSO policies and practices.”