On Thursday, January 15, a United States District Court Judge called for a contempt of court proceeding against Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “nation’s toughest sheriff.” It’s a development for which I have only one question: What took so long?
The oh-so-tough Sheriff Joe has a long history of deeds that are deserving of contempt. The courts have found him guilty of racially-profiling Latinos, costing the county tens of millions in unnecessary court costs and court judgments. By my admittedly incomplete accounting, Arpaio has, thus far, cost Maricopa County taxpayers at least $81.125 million in legal fees and settlements. And that doesn’t even include the tens of millions of county funds he has misspent on a variety of law enforcement toys and other unapproved items.
In addition, Arpaio’s office failed to investigate sexual assaults in a predominantly Latino area of the county. He has profited from his own political action committee. And, according to the American Friends Service Committee, his Tent City jail, which was ballyhooed as a way to save the county money, costs more per prisoner than any other prison in the state. This despite the fact that it has no heat, no air conditioning and its only bathrooms are portable latrines located next to a dump. (Of course, that is a perfect image for a prison that has one of the highest recidivism rates in the nation. Like our trash, the prisoners are dumped in the desert, surrounded by razor wire, covered with fabric and largely forgotten.)
In reality, the terrorists housed in Gitmo have better facilities. Indeed, an Amnesty International report that found that Tent City is not an “adequate or humane alternative to housing inmates…”
Despite his excesses and failings, for unexplainable reasons Joe is still admired by those who would otherwise demand accountability and fiscal restraint from their elected officials. That’s because Joe is a master of fear-mongering. Over the years, he has scared enough Maricopa County residents into voting for him that he has been elected to six terms by portraying all Latinos as drug-running, human-trafficking, murdering criminals who have crossed our borders illegally and are taking our jobs. He has also successfully pandered to his right wing base by devoting time to try to prove that President Obama is not a US citizen.
So are these the reasons why Arpaio is now facing contempt charges? No, Joe is facing contempt for simply failing to follow court orders. In other words, the get-tough sheriff who claims to pursue any and all lawbreakers is himself accused of ignoring the legal system.
If there is any justice, the highly-contemptible Sheriff Joe will be found guilty and assigned to his own Tent City where he can enjoy the odors coming from its portable toilets, which are frankly less disagreeable than the stench of corruption coming from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and his political friends.