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Joe Arpaio

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Joe Arpaio was the Republican sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, who seemed to have forgotten that the sheriff's office is an agency for upholding the law, rather than a vehicle for promoting his own personal brand.

Few people can even name the candidates running against Arpaio: his "brand" recognition is astronomical. Each time his name got in the news for some new malfeasance, he won new voters. Doesn't matter if it costs the taxpayers millions. He sets a new benchmark for "teflon." He could only keep dodging the fallout for so long though, as his 24-years-long reign of terror was broken in November, 2016, where he was voted out of office.

Illegal immigration[edit]

Arpaio has taken a very hard line against illegal immigration. So hard, in fact, that he declines to hand illegal immigrants over to federal authorities for deportation in lieu of a stint in jail,[1] and the sheriff's office is so busy trying to hunt illegal immigrants that it has little time for anything else.[2] The end result of all of this is that the Justice Department filed a civil suit against Arpaio in Federal court in May 2012 due to multiple civil rights violations primarily aimed at the Latino population of Maricopa County.[3]

Civil rights violations[edit]

Arpaio, like a large number of Republicans, talks a good talk on cost-cutting. Unlike most of the prominent politicians in his party, however, he has actually cut some costs. For example, he has cut food costs in the jails of Maricopa County by starving jail inmates, he has cut building costs by jailing people in tents in often triple-digit heat,[4] and he has cut maintenance costs by letting the jails rot. Unfortunately, these cost-cutting measures have been more than offset by the massive number of lawsuits filed against the sheriff's office, resulting in more than $43 million paid out in settlements.[5]

In 2008, a federal court ruled that conditions in the jails were unconstitutionally harsh.[6] Arpaio, perhaps preoccupied with his fledgling clothing-design career, did not seem to get the memo; two years later, another ruling held that conditions had not changed and ordered him to get off his keister.[7] Yet somehow he kept getting chosen as sheriff.

Using public office for self-promotion[edit]

Arpaio uses the sheriff's office, including its official communication organs, as self-promotion tools, including but not limited to the publication of his political differences with the federal government[8] and of his opinions on Arizona political happenings.[9]

Sometime in the 1990s, the underwear given to inmates in Maricopa County jails was dyed pink to prevent inmates from walking off with it. Arpaio used this as a pretext to brag about how well he has served his constituents.[10] He also, in 1995, began to sell this pink underwear as a souvenir item through an outfit called the Posse Foundation, with funding from the sheriff's office; there were allegations that the money thus received was being mishandled.[11] Unfortunately for poor Joe, use of the pink underwear in prisons is currently under scrutiny[12] by an appellate court.[13]

In 2007, Arpaio set up a radio station, KJOE, in the basement of one of the jails, broadcasting operas, patriotic songs, and educational programming.[14] This makes one wonder precisely what his position is on certain other taxpayer-funded radio stations with similar programming.

Sexual assault cases? What sexual assault cases?[edit]

It looks like while Big Joe was busy rounding up his posse of Mexican hunters and pot busters, he may have chanced to overlook over 400 sexual assault cases, most of which involve children.[15] Either these cases slipped under his nose while he was busy being a hero-cum-underwear vendor to all right-thinking people in Arizona, or he deliberately turned a blind eye since many of the victims' parents were in the country illegally. These revelations have provoked many calls for him to resign.[16]


In 2012, Sheriff Arpaio took up the cause of birtherism, arguing that President Obama's birth certificate and selective service (draft) registration card are fakes. His volunteer "Cold Case Posse," in conjunction with Jerome Corsi, conducted an "investigation" and then held an excruciatingly long press conference in March 2012 to announce their findings: the documents are fraudulent and Obama was probably born abroad and is not eligible to be President.[17] Their evidence was heavily dependent on the idea that the birth certificate's electronic form, as released online by the White House, differed from a "control" sample certificate that they scanned themselves.

Interestingly, the day before Sheriff Joe's "Cold Case Posse" released their report, the lead investigator, Michael Zullo, published a book on the topic, co-authored by a helpful Jerome Corsi.[18][19]

Not content with hosting one excruciating dog and pony show on the subject, Arpaio and Zullo took a second stab at the same comedy-ready material in July 2012, adding some extra spice to the mix by insisting that sooper sekrit codes were hidden in the birth certificate and that some very old person (apparently not present at the press conference; go figure) could figure out what those secret codes actually meant. Not content to leave it at that, Arpaio and Zullo also asserted that black helicopters Hawaiian police were following Zullo around in an effort to harass him during his "investigation".[20] Mind you, none of this has anything to do with the civil lawsuit being filed against Arpaio at all.[21]

In December 2016, Arpaio and Zullo promised an Obama birth certificate "bombshell" would be revealed at an upcoming press event. Perhaps responding to the public's recently demonstrated attraction to crazy shit, many TV stations streamed the press conference live. Hapless viewers were treated to a snoozy video presentation that plodded through the birth certificate's supposed "9 points of forgery" with lots of scientific-sounding jargon and Arpaio crankily blaming the mainstream media for ignoring his past investigations.[22]

School protection posse[edit]

In early 2013, after the shootings at the Sandy Hook Elementary School[23] Sheriff Arpaio announced he would form an all volunteer posse of "well trained", gun-carrying patrols to drive around town and protect the schools. Not one school has ever requested such services, of course, and many schools and parents are outraged at the use of volunteer, virtually untrained men "protecting" the schools. In early February 2013, it was discovered that his posse included at least one convicted child molester, and several men convicted of domestic abuse. The training for the team was given by police tactician and ammunitions expert actor Steven Seagal who defended himself by saying "I’ve put hundreds of thousands if not millions of hours into my weapons training".[24] For the record, 100,000 hours is 11.41 years of 24-hour days.

Ersatz cultural criticism[edit]

Arpaio also challenged George Lopez to "meet [him] face to face" after he took selective outrage offense to some of Lopez's material concerning Arpaio that aired on HBO in July 2012. He was also supposedly shocked by the naughty, naughty words that Lopez used during the monologue as well even before the fact became apparent that Lopez was talking about Arpaio at the time. Yeah. Sure.[25]


Arpaio was voted out of office November 8, 2016, as the county voters chose Democratic challenger, Paul Penzone. The irony was, most of the voters who said "No" to Arpaio's bid were moderate Republicans[26]. Penzone succeeded Arpaio as Maricopa County Sheriff on January 7, 2017.[27]

Many of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office employees - civilian and those in uniform - were happy, too. Many felt Arpaio was focusing too much on his political career. Others were angry about the staffing shortage at the county jail; dwindling resources thanks to mounting legal bills from the racial-profiling lawsuit; and many were just plain ashamed of where they worked.[28]

Not Done Yet[edit]

Because the concept of wingnut welfare is still very much alive and well in the US, Arpaio has been considered for Trump's cabinet as Secretary of Homeland Security[29], a position which manages (among other things) Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Transportation Security Administration[30]. Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

Thankfully, Trump had the good sense not to appoint him after all.

External links[edit]


  4. AWOL Soldiers Serving Sentences At Tent City
  5. Special Report: Health and death behind bars
  8. Arpaio Concerned About Federal News Release at the Wayback Machine (archived December 29, 2010)
  9. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Deputies Sieze [sic] 500 Pounds of Marijuana During Human Smuggling Illegal Alien Investigation at the Wayback Machine (archived December 29, 2010)
  10. Laundry Services at the Wayback Machine (archived December 29, 2010)
  11. [1]/
  12. [2]
  13. [3]
  14. Arpaio Launches KJOE Radio
  17. "Full Video of Sheriff Joe Arpaio Press Conference 3/1/12 - Obama Eligibility Cold Case Investigation", YouTube
  18. "Arpaio's Volunteer Investigator Profits from Birther Probe," Talking Points Memo
  19. listing for A Question of Eligibility
  22. On the heels of electoral defeat, Sheriff Joe Arpaio attempts to revive debate over Obama's birth certificate Los Angeles Times, December 14, 2016
  23. December 14, 2012, Newtown Connecticut
  26. moderate Republicans