Almost exactly four years ago, an op/ed by Lawrence Downes appeared in the New York Times, beginning, “Want to see America unraveling? Come here.” “Here” in this instance referred to Phoenix, and specifically a Phoenix under the control of a Joe Arpaio-led sheriff’s department. Arpaio has certainly received a great deal of criticism from a variety of sectors due to his harsh personal immigration politics. However, in this op/ed, Downes does not argue that Phoenix is “unraveling” simply because of the Sheriff’s politics, but rather he points out the open and relatively unchallenged corruption he sees in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s department as the real source of the city’s imminent dissolution.
It is surprising that at precisely the moment that Downes’ op/ed is seeing its four year anniversary, Joe Arpaio is still in charge of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s department. He is still one of the most controversial political figures in the state, if not the country. And his department is still facing accusations of poor police work and outright corruption. With so many Arizonans intent on dethroning the so-called “America’s meanest sheriff,” the fact that Arpaio has been able to stay in power all these years must signal either that his detractors simply can not build a valid case against him, or that his personal power has grown to a point that he has been able all this time to successfully hold off his critics.
However, if it is the latter case that is the true one, Arpaio’s reign as Maricopa County Sheriff could soon be coming to an end, as the public criticism of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s department is rapidly reaching a fever pitch that even he may not be able to withstand.
The most recent public outrage aimed at Arpaio concerns the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department’s long history of mismanaging sex crimes investigations. According to a report by a local Phoenix news station, at least 532 recent sex crimes cases were not properly investigated by the department. In these cases, most victims, many of them children, were never contacted or interviewed. Suspects were never questioned. And evidence was never properly collected or processed.
In response to the accusations, Arpaio offered only a passive aggressive apology, stating “If there were any victims out there, I apologize, if there were any.” Needless to say, this apology has done little to quell the anger many in the public are directing at him.
Civic organization Citizens for a Better Arizona, the group which launched the recall petition that eventually got State Senator Russell Pearce voted out of office, has now announced it is devoting its efforts to similarly ousting Arpaio. In addition, there is an online petition currently circulating via Change.org calling for Arpaio’s resignation.
Arpaio is running for reelection for the position of Maricopa County Sheriff in 2012.