Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio won again.
The 80-year-old Arpaio won a sixth term, setting a record as the county’s longest sitting sheriff. And if Arpaio has his way, and he usually does, he’ll be elected to a seventh term.
No doubt the Democrats will give it their best shot to depose Arpaio, but if history repeats itself, the Democrats will once again bring a knife to a gunfight and Arpaio will be re-elected and talking about an eighth term.
While the anti-Arpaio crowd are touting the sheriff’s winning by only 7 percent of the vote, he won fair and square and now has four more years to campaign and raise money for 2016. He’s already been working at reinventing himself as a kinder and gentler Joe who has said he wants to reach out to the Hispanic community, a community that has had a less than harmonious relationship with the man who invaded neighborhoods looking for undocumented workers.
His olive branch effort might not play well in the barrio, but it’ll play just fine with supporters who will tout his outreach efforts and his toughness on crime. It’s a win-win for the county’s puppet master.
In this last election almost 680,000 of Maricopa County’s approximately one million eligible voters saw fit to return Arpaio to office. Even though the sheriff only provides policing services to around 7 percent of the county’s nearly four million residents, Arpaio’s fans see him as saving them from crime and evil even though the vast majority of residents get their police services from city departments. If you don’t end up in jail most county residents will never encounter the sheriff and his deputies.
Arpaio has been more of a circus ringmaster than lawman the past two decades. He has a list of professional and organizational failures that would probably fill dozens of filing cabinets. He spends our tax money like a drunken sailor, according to a May 2012 study conducted by the Pinal County Office of Management and Budget, yet Old Joe has the lowest law enforcement costs per capita of all the county sheriffs in Arizona. MCSO comes in at $18 while Paul Babeu, his Pinal County protégé, comes in at $80.
Sure the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has gotten plenty of bad press and no doubt has caused a considerable amount of pain and suffering. But the MCSO doesn’t have an exclusive on questionable and failed policing practices.
While it’s been heavily reported MCSO botched over 400 sex crimes cases, according to a June 28, 2011 report by ABC15, the Phoenix police department may have mishandled hundreds of sex crimes investigations. And what about the recent ABC15 report -- http://evtnow.com/4rz -- that Phoenix is sitting on over 1,500 untested sexual assault kits while Tempe police are sitting on almost 400 untested kits? How many rapists and child molesters may have gone free because of Phoenix and Tempe’s failure to properly follow up on a sex crime? By comparison, MCSO now tests all of their sexual assault evidence kits and has no untested kits sitting on a shelf.
And when it comes to crime statistics, Maricopa County’s crime rate is 40 felony crimes per 1,000 according to a study by the Arizona Republic, http://www.azcentral.com/news/cityguides/. Phoenix’s serious crime rate is 50 per 1,000 and Tempe’s is almost 60 per 1,000.
But you don’t see the protesters who have targeted Arpaio raising cane at Phoenix and Tempe city council meetings demanding action over the failures of their police chiefs.
Arpaio is the sheriff who is either, loved, hated or tolerated by the voters of Maricopa County, just like most other politicians. And until the voters of Maricopa County decide to dump him or he retires, Arpaio’s the sheriff and he still runs the county.
Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.