Maricopa County’s little Hoover

The Joe Arpaio crime spree may be nearing its end.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has J. Edgar Hoover’s morals without his competence. The fact that he is still putting people in prison rather than serving time in prison reflects the failure of federal and state law enforcement agencies to do their jobs.

Not only has Arpaio made a practice of violating defendant’s rights – at a cost of tens of millions of dollars to Maricopa County taxpayers – he has blatantly used his law enforcement powers to protect himself from political opposition, including arrests of people who spoke against him at a public hearing and a raid on the home of a newspaper publisher who published a critical article. But his frank sadism and racism are just catnip to the right wing, including Gov. Jan Brewer: somehow, Tea Party objections to governmental excess never quite seem to stretch to law enforcement, unless it involves enforcing the gun laws.

Now a Deputy Chief of the Sheriff’s Office has blown the whistle, hard, writing of the political corruption unit, run by Arpaio’s Chief Deputy, “It has been the pattern and practice of this unit to conduct politically motivated investigations.” Arpaio has decided to have one of his political allies, the sheriff of a neighboring county, investigate the charges. The memo, written to Arpaio by one of his subordinates, naturally makes no charge aimed at The Man himself: no the King has been led astray by evil counselors. But we all know a fish rots from the head.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

4 thoughts on “Maricopa County’s little Hoover”

  1. To say Arpaio put the "investigation" in the hands of a political ally understates the case. The man is Paul Babeu, who is, if you can imagine, a more flamboyantly disordered character than Arpaio (& w/ the advantage of youth). This is the guy who accuses Obama of "borderline treason" & the denounces the federal government as the enemy of the American people. His invective targets not just "illegals" but the "foreign-born." He appears on frankly racist & extremist radio shows. He solicits militia groups to privately arm his department. He makes things up. He incites communal division. He tells his supporters he's their "protector & hero," & they seem to believe it. He's emerged in the last five months as the new leader of militant nativism in Arizona & the Fox nation. John McCain, ever the sterling judge of character, dotes on him like a schoolgirl, & is said to want a seat for him in Congress. (This is a payment of a debt as well as late-life infatuation. Babeu's declaration that McCain is "one of us" is widely deemed to have saved McCain's Senate seat.)

    While Arpaio was mulling over what to do w/ the Munnell memo, Babeu was rallying the public against the DOJ lawsuit against him: "Fear not, Sheriff Joe!" Still, whatever the old man's other defects, nobody should fault him for naivety about human nature. Even in the beset autumn of his rule, it seems unlikely that he'd hand a hustler like Babeu a gun w/o assurances it wasn't loaded.

    My point is if you liked Arpaio, you'll love the new guy.

  2. I think Arpaio is a prime demonstration of the fact that locales actually do get the government that they want.

    And that 'le etat cest moi' is still an unfortunately living concept, even if saying it out loud in Arizona is a potentially perilous thing to do.

  3. Saying that-thar phrase out loud is only perilous when those surrounding you are the sort likely to assume that it's in Spanish.

    I was in grad school in central AZ in the early 1990s. Even then, Arpaio's corrupt underpinnings were fairly well acknowledged, but otherwise sane acquaintances excused him by saying something along the lines that Maricopa County needed someone like Sheriff Joe.

    Give him enough authority, and I'm sure he could make the trains run on time.

  4. Arpaio demonstrates that pageant contests aren't just for Miss USA hopefuls, but even a below-average and impetuous man can have hopes.

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