“Sheriff Joe Shares His Successful Strategies”
Report by Betty Sakai
Greatly anticipated, Sheriff Joe Arpaio was heartily welcomed by almost five hundred --many in attendance for the first time and many who respectfully referred to him as “the man”. Confronted upon arrival by a small group of demonstrators, he would later refer to them as “disappointingly polite”. The event publicized well in advance drew the attention of only one cable news station (KMVT) and Telemundo filming the tiny demonstration outside. No local newspapers or Television stations were present to report on the importance of the rule of law and the life-long work of this famous Arizona County Sheriff. Arpaio is known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff”. He is indeed the toughest Sheriff in the United States and perhaps in the world.
The child of Italian immigrants who ran a grocery store and taught their son the value of hard work, Joe Arpaio joined the Army in 1950 when the Korean War broke out. In 1953 he worked as a cop in Washington D.C. and then in Las Vegas. He went on to build a federal law enforcement career and a reputation for fighting crime and drug enforcement around the world. As a federal narcotics agent, Joe Arpaio established a stellar record by infiltrating drug organizations from Turkey to the Middle East, Mexico, and Central America, as well as in cities around the U.S. His success and expertise led him to top management positions in the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration). He concluded his remarkable thirty-two year federal career as head of the DEA in Arizona.
Married to Ava for fifty-seven years – to whom he attributes much of his success -- Arpaio continues to work hard even today at age eighty-one (81). He works fourteen-hour days, seven days a week. Elected Sheriff of Maricopa County in 1992, he has since been re-elected four times --each for four years -- with consistently high approval ratings.
Considering the difference between being a Sheriff and working as a bureaucrat, Arpaio described his life in government as always reporting to a boss. When first elected as Sheriff in 1992, he still thought of himself as a bureaucrat. But the difference he discovered is profound. He became aware of the fact that, as the elected Sheriff, he is directly responsible to the People to uphold the law and the Constitution. There is no boss, no bureaucrat above him. He asked, what can bureaucrats get done when they have to report to a boss in a chain of command? With four million bosses (that they know of) in Mariposa County, Arpaio said he feels very strongly that the people count.
Sheriffs are the only elected law enforcement officer. Their role is to uphold state laws and to protect the people from the overreach of ignorant politicians and an errant federal government. If you don’t like your Sheriff, he said, go find somebody else. Admitting at times to being a bit controversial, Arpaio expressed disappointment over other Sheriffs not wanting to get too close to him – disappointment over the failure of other Sheriffs to stand next to him when he is challenged by bureaucrats and the Judiciary. Discounting these failures as their problem, Sheriff Joe conceded that each Sheriff has their own constituency.
With over fifty years in law enforcement, Arpaio knows what the public wants. He serves the public and he serves them well. For twenty-two years, he’s given two speeches a day – down recently to one speech a day. Every few years or so, Arpaio toys with running for Governor of Arizona but admits he’s never had a passion for being a Governor. He likes being Sheriff because that allows him to wear a badge and gun. Feeling it admirable to be unpopular, Sheriff Joe said he gains more support when he’s unpopular. Having been a cop all over the world, he said he knows where the Mexican Border is, unlike many politicians who don’t know what the real story is.
Continuing his story in the first person… When I ran for Sheriff I made three promises: to create a tent city jail, to build up my volunteer posse, and to get tough on criminals. In January, 1993, nobody would help me find tents, so I went on a midnight requisition to New Mexico and brought back seventy (70) tents. The County had some vacant land by the city dump, the dog pound, and the waste disposal plant. The tent city jail was put up there and is still there. Organizations such as the ACLU and Amnesty International come through regularly. They don’t like the tents. I’m happy when they visit in summer when temperatures rise to 138 degrees. I tell everybody that the men and women defending their country live in tents, so why shouldn’t criminals live in them? Everyone living in the tents are convicted. I don’t put the innocent people in the tents. I survive because I can prove everything I say. Politicians seek my endorsement. Four Presidential candidates have visited the tents: Bob Dole, Pete Wilson, Bill Graham, and John McCain. And they all lost. Hilary Clinton flew over in a big jet. My advice: if you want to win an election, don’t visit the tents.
My volunteer posse has over 3,000 volunteers, 500 with guns. Private citizens have the authority to do law enforcement when a Sheriff mobilizes them. I take this very seriously. The volunteer posse uses their own money, their own airplanes and jets, and they all report to me. On the birth certificate issue, I have never gone after the President as to whether he was born here or not born here. I went after a forged government document. I’m still working on that. I have some idea of who is behind this. I promised those who asked me to investigate the birth certificate that I would do it. They pleaded that I was their last hope. They came to my office with two hundred signatures of citizens in Phoenix. I promised I would look into it. It’s been 2.5 years and I am not giving up. I thought Congress should take it up but they have not done it. It’s really sad that elected officials in Congress feel they can remain aloof. They will not talk about it because they are intent on getting re-elected. But if this were you, if you provided a forged document, you would go to jail. I took an oath to enforce the law and I intend to keep my oath.
About the tents, a judge told me I had to provide TV for the inmates. They were watching pornos and R-Rated movies. I got rid of cable TV and decided they should watch G-Rated movies like “Lassie Come Home” and channels like the weather channel, C-Span’s coverage of Congressional discussions and debates, NPR, and the Food Channel. I know that’s cruel. But regardless of what the authorities tell me to do, I continue to believe that people in jail should be punished and not have access to what the people who are not in jail have access to.
The cost of meals has gone up from thirty cents a meal to fifty cents a meal. I used to have trucks drive to California to pick up fruits and vegetables, but that’s in the past. A month ago, I removed meat from the menu. Now it’s brunch and dinner and peanut butter sandwiches. They should not live better in jail than they do outside. Asked if he thinks prisoners should pay for the cost of their incarceration, Sheriff Joe answered yes, but with money from their labor to pay for the cost of their meals and medical care. He is considering charging $1.00 per meal – but still, “No Bambi”.
Sheriff Joe treats people fairly and has 8,400 people in the tents. He enforces state immigration laws, not federal immigration laws. A national leader for the enforcement of immigration laws, Arpaio wrote a letter to California’s Governor Jerry Brown who is planning to release 10,000 inmates from overcrowded California prisons. Arpaio offered to take those 10,000 inmates into the tents in Mariposa County, Arizona, to keep them from wandering the streets of cities in California like San Jose. Governor Brown did not respond. “He probably talks about me and the birth certificate whenever he talks to Obama. If anybody has contact with Governor Brown, tell him “The Sheriff is waiting for him to call.”
As chief enforcement officer for Mariposa County, Arpaio continues to reduce crime with his hard-hitting methods. The recidivism rate in his drug program has been reduced by 30%. His deputies and detectives have solved several high-profile murder cases, including nine (9) child murders.
About the pink underwear…the official reason is to keep the white underwear from being smuggled out and sold on the black market. The unofficial reason is that everybody hates them. Focusing on the notoriety of the pink underwear, a youth support group has started selling pink underwear to fund their programs.
Arpaio described his law enforcement as “equal opportunity” – as the law is applied equally to those arrested for crossing the border illegally and those who commit crimes. His secret weapon he said is to use common sense, not psychology -- just plain old common sense.
About the jail’s current programs: veterans jailed are segregated and given special services – support and education. Asked why they receive special treatment, Sheriff Joe responded, “…because I run the hotel.” American flags are displayed in the tents. Anyone who touches them is put on bread and water…to which Sheriff Joe mused saves him a bit of money.
Another program are the chain gangs – all volunteer, he added. Russian and Chinese TV crews have come to see the chain gangs. Thirty-nine TV crews from around the world came to film the launching of the first female chain gang – the only female chain gang in the history of the world. They work every Thursday to bury the deceased and those who died of drug overdose. Sheriff Joe hopes the work will gain them some perspective on life.
Seventy-five percent of the Mariposa County Sheriff’s budget goes to running the jail. The other twenty-five percent goes to bringing them into jail. Every morning, everyone is encouraged to sing “God Bless America”. Arpaio said he can’t force inmates to sing but most do. He also has a celebrities tent and offered Los Angeles County Sheriff that he would take Ferris Hilton but his offer was declined.
Anyone who abuses a dog or cat or horse goes directly to jail. Sheriff Joe needed a place for adoptable dogs and cats, so he removed inmates from the air-conditioned jail house and used this facility to house the dogs and the cats. Some call it “The Cat House.” He said he does not euthanize any dog, even a dog like Mickey – a dog with ticks and worms who tore the face off a four year old child — a dog who a judge has determined can never be adopted. The case was never investigated, but regardless, Mickey will live out his life in the Mariposa County Jail.
Asked if he ever has taken a poll to determine his popularity, Arpaio answered he doesn’t have to. He and his wife ride in parades sitting on top of a tank. If the people boo him, he knows they are not pleased. Why does he keep wanting to be Sheriff? For the last seven years he’s had people after him. A guy sent him a bomb and it took them a year to track him down, bust him, and put him in jail. The courts and the ACLU have tried to get rid of him. His opponents have sent buses full of election workers to sway voters -- unsuccessfully. They have tried to recall him, also unsuccessfully. Arpaio understands that the four thousand people working for him depend on him. Asked if he has any policies he regrets, Arpaio answered, “No.”
Asked about the President and the Secretary of State reporting Arizona to the United Nations for human rights violations, Arpaio pondered, “Why Arizona?”
He said, illegals are not undocumented. They are the citizens of another country here illegally. It’s not fair that those waiting to become citizens should lose their place in line to someone who simply crosses the border. Arpaio arrests them. His department did a survey of the 2,000 illegal aliens in their jail. Thirty-one percent had come back. Sheriff Joe turns the illegals over to ICE and the illegals keep coming back to Arizona’s jails. He asked, “What are they doing with them?” In the first two years, he said they arrested 50,000 and turned them over to the Feds to be deported. And each month, Sheriff Joe writes up a report and sends it out to the media, and every month nothing gets written up on the problem. The media refuses to cover the story and the illegals keep coming back.
About Fast and Furious, he said that with Eric Holder in the DOJ, nothing will get done. And this is very sad for those who lost their loved-ones.
Asked if he has ever had a jail break from his tents, Sheriff Joe answered yes, but not recently. He quipped jokingly… because they’re too weak.
One question from the audience inquired about the judge who had ordered restrictions placed on Arpaio. He answered the question by stating that the judge thinks he’s the Sheriff. Arpaio stated sternly that he will be appealing that decision all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Joe Arpaio ended his presentation by admitting it’s been a long haul. His enemies he confided might help him back away if they would tell him they appreciate what he has done and offer him some tickets on a cruise line. He doesn’t expect this to happen. Although he does not carry a gun, his deputies do. He has a 50 caliber machine gun and his deputies are pretty good shooters. When he leaves office, he will ride off into the sunset singing Frank Sinatra’s song, ‘My Way’, and people will forget him – all except his loving wife.
The Forum’s audience showed their deep respect and appreciation for the life’s work and presentation by this remarkable man. Sheriff Joe Arpaio received a long, standing applause. It was an unforgettable evening with a great American.
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