Joe Arpaio, 83, styles himself as “America’s Toughest Sheriff”. That hyperbole would be hard to prove. Most observers do agree that Arpaio is possibly the most controversial lawman in the nation. The New York Times ignored the toughest sheriff claim and calls Arpaio “a loose cannon“.
Arpaio has variously been accused of abuse of power, misuse of funds, failure to investigate sex crime, improperly clearing cases, illegal enforcement of immigration rules and election law violations.
In December 2015, Arpaio restarted one of the strangest political controversies: Is President Obama an American?
Arpaio’s career has never advanced law enforcement. Instead, the media-hungry lawman has courted controversy, basking in the glow and believing that the “only bad publicity is no publicity. He reveled in the reflected flush when Rogue Columnist called him “a Huey Long-style demagogue…profiting from exploited brown people”.
Life Before Sheriff
Arpaio’s career in law has been spotty. Following his 1954 discharge from the Army, Arpaio settled in Washington DC and became a cop before moving to Las Vegas. Nick Wooldridge adds that after six-months in “Sin City”, Arpaio managed to land an appointment as “special agent” with the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, later the name was changed to the Drug Enforcement Administration. Assigned to DEA for 25-years, Arpaio saw duty in Argentina, Turkey, and Mexico.
When Arpaio left the DEA, he sold passage on the Phoenix E space rocket on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to the new world. While claiming, in 1998, that the first 18 flights of the Phoenix E were booked, no flights were ever made.
Nation’s Toughest Sheriff
First elected as sheriff in 1992, Arpaio has steadily sought out the media, with success. He has appeared on worldwide news media and in 2012 told the New York Times he averages 200 television appearances a month.
Federal Judge Neil V. Wake directed in 2008 and 2010 that the Maricopa County jails infringed the constitutional liberties of prisoners. Arpaio’s practices including serving prisoners food retrievrescue.ed from food
Of of the Sherrif’s media ploys was the requirement that inmates wear pink underwear. Arpaio sells customized pink boxers in a jail store and declines to provide an accounting of the money brought in through the underwear sales
Instead of seeking cover, Joe tried to seize the limelight in the very manner that has served to thrust his career into the lower stratosphere.
Arpaio called a press conference in 2013 to reveal the conclusions of an inquiry. Arpaio challenged on many fronts by his own party, critics, and other law enforcement professionals wanted to turn the spotlight in another direction. His gambit? He investigated the veracity of President Obama’s birth record. It was a debate that had been debunked but has been kept alive by other tin-foil-hat wearing conservatives such as Donald Trump.
Arpaio, 79, refused to provide hints about what his investigation found. However, he continued to defend his obligation to investigate because 250 people, attached to Arizona’s tea party, requested it.
An ongoing critic of Obama’s administration, Arpaio refused to admit any vengeance behind the investigation. “I’m not after Obama,” said Arpaio. “I’m just performing my job.”
Most observers in Arizona believe Arpaio’s goal is to deflect attention of his own notable legal problems. Arpaio denied any such strategies were at work.
“You say I require this to get selected? I’ve been chosen five times. I don’t require this,” he told the Arizona Sun in a current interview.
The Sheriff’s probe came in the midst of a federal grand jury investigating the sheriff’s department over abuse of power accusations since December 2009. The grand jury focused on the department’s anti-public crime squad. The U.S. Justice Department has been looking into Arpaio’s office for profiling Latinos, setting entrance enforcement on racially-motivated citizen grievances and disciplining Hispanic prisoners for conversing in Spanish. Arpaio claims his department has done nothing wrong and says the investigation is politically motivated.
Arpaio’s critics have been seeking the sheriff’s resignation for over 400 sex-crime cases that were insufficiently reviewed or weren’t examined at all.
Despite Hawaii officials repeatedly confirming Obama’s citizenship, Arpaio, and Trump, have kept conservatives in a fog for years. “Birthers” believe that Obama is not eligible to be President because, they claim, Obama was born in Kenya.
Even though Arpaio is under fire from the federal government, the sheriff remains popular among Republicans, although the number of Republicans that support Arpaio is shrinking.