“Every state needs a least one sheriff like Joe Arpaio,” Sharron Angle told a convention of right-wing bloggers in Las Vegas. And now “Sheriff Joe” of Maricopa County, Arizona, intends to push his hardcore anti-immigrant agenda and promote SB 1070 around the country. After his stint on reality TV with Fox’s “Smile…You’re Under Arrest!” Sheriff Joe is looking to eclipse Tom Tancredo in anti-immigrant politics and demagoguery.
Sheriff Joe will soon address a New Hampshire Republican Party conference and is also slated to speak at the “National Tea Party Unity Convention” in Las Vegas this October. At the Tea Party Convention he will join other right-wing extremists such as Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily, radio talk show host Neal Boortz, and a whole slew of Tea Party fanatics like William Temple, Victoria Jackson and the rapper “Polatik.”
Increasing his political reach, the Los Angeles Times reports that he is “supporting candidates for Michigan governor, California Assembly and congressional seats in Florida and Missouri, among others.” He recently gave his blessing to Tea Party darling Sharron Angle, who will join Sheriff Joe at the Tea Party Convention, although he later admitted: “I don’t know too much about her.”
Famous for building “tent cities” for inmates, racial profiling, sweeps and raids of immigrant communities, and glaring civil rights abuses, Sheriff Joe is now an important endorsement for right-wing candidates outside of Arizona. Politics is not unfamiliar to Sheriff Joe, who launched investigations against critical journalists and political opponents, and was blasted for using the law as “a personal tool to target political enemies or avenge perceived wrongs.”
The New York Times in 2009 detailed the Republican Party’s new anti-immigrant hero and his failed record as Sheriff:
Maricopa County has many times more federal prison condition lawsuits than New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston combined. In September of last year, the National Commission on Correctional Health Care revoked its accreditation of the jails Sheriff Arpaio runs on the grounds of failure to provide adequate health care for inmates.
In October, a federal judge ruled that Sheriff Arpaio’s department had violated the Constitution by depriving inmates of medical care, fed them unhealthy food and housed them in unsanitary conditions.
The Goldwater report suggested that the picture beyond corrections was equally grim, citing the department’s tendency to “clear” cases without any resolution or arrest, and suggested that resources were being diverted to efforts to find illegal immigrants through sweeps that other departments characterized as dangerous.
As a result of the raids, Phoenix’s mayor, Phil Gordon, wrote a letter to the United States Department of Justice accusing Mr. Arpaio of “a pattern and practice of conduct that includes discriminatory harassment, improper stops, searches and arrests.”
The Goldwater report suggests that the trade-off for the letting [sic] the sheriff do his thing may not benefit his constituents. Although his department was “adept at self-promotion and is an unquestionably ‘tough’ law-enforcement agency, under its watch violent crime rates recently have soared, both in absolute terms and relative to other jurisdictions.”
Homicides in the county were up 167 percent in the three-year period ending in 2007 and the report stated that the budget for the department, excluding corrections, had doubled since 2001.
“We have 40,000 unserved felony warrants — murderers and rapists — and instead of serving those warrants, we have this buffoon who spends his time popping out from behind curtains for a reality television show,” said Michael C. Manning, a Phoenix lawyer who has sued the department on behalf of clients repeatedly and successfully in wrongful death suits. “He continues to demean our community by chasing publicity and acting the buffoon.”