Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona - which includes the city of Phoenix, is an intentionally controversial and combative character who thrives on hogging the public spotlight. Old Joe is known for such outrages as bragging about feeding his prisoners green bologna, making them wear pink underwear, and limiting their television to a couple of channels that no one wants to watch. He is a real tough guy and wants everyone to know that it doesn't pay to mess with Joe.
Arpaio is also known for other scurrilous stunts including his immigrant sweeps which tie up vast amounts of sheriff's department personnel and equipment - as well as local commerce and traffic- for hours on end, but seldom result in more than a handful of arrests, conducting political vendettas against those who dare to oppose him, setting up or condoning situations where people wind up dying in his jails, and costing the county millions of dollars in lawsuits when the courts ultimately do the right thing and hold his office responsible for the false arrests and injuries - or deaths - sustained in his jails.
But the people in and around Phoenix like their tough cop and revel in all of the glory that his theatrics bring to the Scorpion State. He is currently in his fifth term as sheriff, and plans to run for a sixth in 2012 - at a time when he will be eighty-years-old.
The worm, however, may finally be ready to turn. There has been a recent story in the national news about how Joe's office failed to investigate hundreds of sex-crime cases, many involving children, between 2005 and 2007. Around 400 cases were either not investigated at all, or only given a cursory examination. That was reported locally in 2008, but the people who live in Maricopa County are subjected to an almost daily barrage of bombastic Joe stories and are basically inoculated against his blatant abuses of power and dereliction of duty.
Now the story about the neglected sex crimes cases has re-emerged, this time on a national level, and more people than ever are beginning to focus in on the state of law enforcement in Maricopa County, Arizona. Recently I received an email invitation asking me to sign an on-line petition requesting that Sheriff Joe resign, and my decision to add my name took all of about two nano-seconds. I proudly cast my vote at the ballot box against Joe Arpaio in 2008, and have never regretted that decision. It was the right thing to do.
Now Old Joe should do the right thing. With the scandals that Joe has brought to Arizona, his wanton disregard for the rights of certain classes of individuals, and the outrageous amounts of money that he has lavished on his department as well as the millions of dollars paid out in lawsuits as a result of his department's actions, Joe really should do the honorable thing and resign.
I am not, however, holding my breath expecting a miracle like that to happen. That is why I added my name to the petition, and why I will once again vote against Joe Arpaio in 2012. Sheriff Joe needs to go.
You may view and sign the on-line petition that is seeking Joe's resignation here: http://www.change.org/