Sheriff takes controversial sweeps to W. Valley - East Valley Tribune: News

Sheriff takes controversial sweeps to W. Valley

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Posted: Wednesday, August 13, 2008 5:45 pm | Updated: 11:28 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio took his controversial "crime suppression" sweeps to the West Valley on Wednesday, stopping vehicles during afternoon rush hour in and around Surprise and Sun City.

MCSO mobile command center, El Mirage, Surprise, Peoria, Glendale, Phoenix, 303, 10, 60, 17, 51, 202, Map by Gabriel Utasi/TRIBUNE

Deputies and posse members began making stops early in the afternoon, but Arpaio had not appeared at his customary press conference or released many details about the operation by Wednesday evening.

In a press release issued just after 3 p.m., sheriff's spokesman Capt. Paul Chagolla said about 100 deputies and posse members were involved in the operation.

 SPECIAL REPORT: 'Reasonable Doubt' examines sheriff's human smuggling unit 

About 5 p.m., deputies were manning a mobile command center outside a sheriff's office substation in Surprise, at Bell and Dysart roads. They appeared to be operating up and down Grand Avenue, which is also Highway 60.

The operation drew more than a dozen members of the media and a few scattered protesters including El Mirage waiter Andy Hernandez, who waved a Mexican flag. He shouted outside the substation to no one in particular, "You're not invincible. You're hated all over the world."

Citizen police observers with Phoenix Copwatch were on the scene to videotape any arrests.

Sean Whitcomb, a volunteer with the program, said he hoped to film incidents of police brutality should they occur.

"We're concerned that this is going to be another of Arpaio's racial profiling sweeps," Whitcomb said.

"We want Arpaio to be aware that if he is going to be violating anyone's civil rights, we're going to be out here documenting it," he said.

By 5 p.m., Copwatch had made no videotapes, and no suspects had been brought to the substation by deputies.

Chagolla, in the prepared statement, said Wednesday's sweeps were being paid for with private funds donated to the sheriff's office in recent weeks. The statement said the office has collected more than $36,000, "some of which will be used to fund today's operation."

Arpaio began asking people to send in donations after a highly publicized dispute with Gov. Janet Napolitano in which Arpaio accused her - and continues to accuse her, according to Wednesday's press release - of "taking away $1.2 million designated to the Sheriff by the Arizona state legislator for the enforcement of the human smuggling laws."

In fact, the governor did not take away $1.2 million. In May, she took roughly $600,000 that state lawmakers had secured for the sheriff's human smuggling unit and gave it instead to a new task force targeting outstanding felony warrants.

The sheriff's office lost out on another $590,000 in state money that month because its grant expired and the agency had not filed paperwork necessary to secure the money with the state Department of Public Safety.

By 8 p.m., Arpaio held a news conference at a different location than where protesters had gathered, inside the Sheriff’s Office Sun City West Posse Headquarters.

Arpaio said 22 suspected illegal immigrants were arrested during Wednesday’s sweep.

He said the total number of illegal immigrants so far arrested under the state anti-human smuggling law was 1,051.

The 22 suspects were caught in two separate vehicles pulled over during traffic stops.

Arpaio said 10 other people were arrested on outstanding warrants for drug violations and other crimes.

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