Sheriff Joe strikes again!
When he’s not murdering puppies and farm animals with actor Steven Segal, or making jailed inmates sing and dance for their dinner, or even buying Sarah Palin pink underwear, infamous Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is apparently looking the other way on more than 400 sex crimes reported to his office during a three-year stretch ending in 2007, the Associated Press revealed.
Even assuming for a moment the high volume of case work at the sheriff’s department and the lack of man power/resources, the report is pretty damning. How bad is it? Start with this: At least 32 reported child molestations, with victims as young as two years old, were not investigated at all despite known suspects in all but six cases. According to a police source who reviewed the files, the majority of the kids involved in the cases were the sons or daughters of illegal immigrants.
In Sheriff Joe’s world, brown kids aren’t entitled to justice. They can come and pick produce, maybe get to attend school, but if they’re sexually assaulted, forget about being treated like a real person.
No one really knows for sure what happened or why, however, many are speculating:
Arpaio’s office was under contract to provide police services in El Mirage as the city struggled with its then dysfunctional department. After the contract ended and El Mirage was re-establishing its own police operation, the city spent a year sifting through layers of disturbingly incomplete casework.
El Mirage Detective Jerry Laird, who reviewed some the investigations, learned from a sheriff’s summary of 50 to 75 cases files he picked up from Arpaio’s office that an overwhelming majority of them hadn’t been worked.
That meant there were no follow-up reports, no collection of additional forensic evidence and zero effort made after the initial report of the crime was taken.
“I think that at some point prior to the contract (for police services) running out, they put their feet on the desk, and that was that,” Laird said.
Arpaio acknowledged his office had completed an internal probe into the inadequate investigations, but said, “I don’t think it’s right to get into it until we get to the bottom of this and see if there’s disciplinary action against any employees.”
A small number of cases from El Mirage were handed over to prosecutors, but the El Mirage Police Department said most were no longer viable — evidence dating as far back as 2006 had grown cold or wasn’t collected in the first place, victims had either moved away or otherwise moved on.
El Mirage paid the sheriff’s office $2.7 million for police services and protection, beginning in 2005 and ending in 2007. The city’s police department had been criticized and underwent a restructuring because it was revealed to be “poorly organized, loosely supervised and mismanaged.” The assistant El Mirage police chief at the time believes the shoddy police work was the result of decisions made by supervisors within Arpaio’s office.
“I know the investigators. I just cannot believe they would wholesale discount these cases. No way,” Bill Louis said. “The direction had to come (from) up the food chain.”
The connection between the non-investigations and many victims being illegal immigrants cannot be overlooked, especially in light of Arpaio’s outspoken stance against illegal immigrants. Because of their status, many wouldn’t complain about shoddy police work, and many others are transient and wouldn’t press charges because the perpetrators were no longer in their lives.
The case is still under investigation, and neither Arpaio nor his office are speaking. Nor are they complying with public records requests for internal affairs documents on the matter.
The bigger picture here is what will it take for Sheriff Joe Arpaio to no longer hold his position of power as a law enforcement official? Is this story big enough?
Besides the silly stuff mentioned above, he’s also been investigated for rights violations for jail conditions, discrimination, unconstitutional searches and seizures, abusing his power to prosecute political opponents, misusing funds, violating election laws and more. But all of that, significant to be sure, seems to pale in comparison to going easy on child rapists, doesn’t it?
Sheriff Joe, you got some ‘splain’ to do…
Update: And explain he has, holding a Monday press conference to apologize for his department’s handling of the cases. “If there were any victims, I apologize to those victims,” the sheriff said. His office said they will take disciplinary action against those sheriffs responsible for botching the investigations.
Despite the outcry to resign, including pressure from U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, Arpaio said, “I am not going anywhere.”
All of the cases have been reopened as a result and as the Associated Press reports, “of the 428 reopened investigations that have been completed, 116 were deemed to have no basis in fact to move forward or had accounts that didn’t add up. More than 220 were turned down by prosecutors or didn’t have enough evidence to bring to prosecutors. Sixty-nine cases had no further information to pursue or couldn’t be advanced further.”
We’re not alone in being tough on America’s “toughest sheriff,” but it seems like Arpaio and his office handled the controversy well, after mucking things up in the first place.