Joe Arpaio, sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, was in federal court this week to respond to charges that his department is not taking a court order regarding alleged racial profiling seriously. Arpaio, who is referred to by supporters and detractors alike as the nation’s toughest sheriff, is generally well-regarded by conservatives who appreciate his no-nonsense approach to fighting crime.
Of course, many on the other side of the aisle have criticized his stance on certain issues – such as fighting illegal immigration and restricting leisure activities for county inmates – which they consider harsh. His officers have also faced accusations of racial bias, leading to the imposition of federal oversight of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow led Monday’s proceedings, bringing Arpaio and his chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan, into court to address their perceived dismissive attitude toward the ruling.
Last year, Sheridan made comments in which he called the court order “absurd” and suggesting Snow “violated the U.S. Constitution” in his decision.
When he addressed Snow Monday, however, he admitted those statements were misguided.
“I’m ashamed of the things I said during the briefing,” he explained. He admitted he “was very emotional” and “had gotten some facts incorrect.”
Among the mandates imposed under Snow’s order are the inclusion of a federal monitor, cameras in every deputy’s patrol car, and new training material.
While Sheridan apologized for his overreaction, his boss made it clear the department will not give in to federal demands without a fight.
“I’m only saying a few words,” he indicated after Monday’s hearing. “This is a court issue. All I’m going to tell you is that we will be appealing the case.”
Some of the MCSO’s detractors celebrated the recent development, including Lydia Guzman, an activist in the Hispanic community.
“The judge did give him a second chance,” she said, “and I’m hoping the sheriff heeds this warning. I’m hoping the judge will finally take this seriously.”
For his part, Arpaio remains popular among the county’s voters and indicates his intention to seek at least one more term in the post. He has earned international prominence due to his fearless adherence to the values he feels are vital to law enforcement; and, at the age of 81, he shows no signs of abandoning them now.
–B. Christopher Agee
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Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore
This post originally appeared on Western Journalism – Informing And Equipping Americans Who Love Freedom