4th Avenue Jail, Phoenix
National Chalk the Police Day, 2011
----great editorial below from Laurie Roberts at the AZ Republic----
Sheriff's 'apology' does 432 victims no good
A 15-year-old girl bursts into an El Mirage store and reports that she's just been raped by two men in a nearby ditch. A 9-year-old tells a school counselor that her grandmother's boyfriend comes into her room at night and molests her as she tries to sleep.
A 13-year-old opens the door to a man whose car had supposedly broken down. He knocks the girl out and sexually assaults her.
In each case, the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office was called to investigate. In every one, the "investigation" ended with that call.
No investigation, no arrests, no justice.
It's a been a rough year for America's most-dumbfounded sheriff, what with rogue operations, misspent funds and $177 million in lawsuits. And now, national headlines about bungled investigations into sex crimes against victims as young as 2 years old.
On Monday, Sheriff Joe Arpaio held a press conference to offer what apparently passes for an apology in Joeland.
"If there were any victims," he said, "I apologize to those victims."
If there were any victims?
If there was any accountability, we would know the details of how and why Arpaio's office ignored reports of serious crimes while the sheriff spent years running around the county, talking tough and arresting illegal immigrants in order to get on the evening news.
Something more, that is, than the explanation offered by Arpaio's new chief deputy, Jerry Sheridan. "Once initial information came out, detectives decided not to follow up," Sheridan said at Monday's mea culpa, adding that disciplinary action could come later this week.
That would be well over three years after these cases first came to light.
In fact, they've been written about locally several times. In 2008, the East Valley Tribune wrote about dozens of cases that went uninvestigated. In May,The Republic and others reported that there were 432 botched sex-crime cases and that then-Chief Deputy Dave Hendershott had blocked an internal investigation to protect a sergeant involved in one of his famed corruption probes.
The bungling became national news on Sunday, when the Associated Press ran a story that was picked up across the country, prompting Arpaio's pseudo apology.
The second of two halfhearted apologies in one week, as it turns out.
Last week, Arpaio issued a bizarre letter of recommendation for Deputy County Manager Sandi Wilson. Yeah, the same Sandi Wilson whom he had accused of civil racketeering; the very one he tried to indict for using public funds to sweep county offices for bugs.
Now, Arpaio writes that Wilson is "a valuable asset, competent and professional."
"That's not an apology letter -- no way," Arpaio told The Republic's Yvonne Wingett Sanchez. "I just appreciate what she's doing."
Wilson is among several county employees who are suing -- the only actual outcome of Arpaio's and former County Attorney Andrew Thomas' probe into county corruption. Wilson has said she'd settle for an apology. This, apparently, is as good as it gets.
The victims whose rapes and molestations went uninvestigated didn't get much better.
Of the 432 botched cases, Arpaio's detectives were able to go back and make only 19 arrests. An additional 116 were declared unfounded, and 67 were classified as "cold cases" (cold, as in Ice Age). Meanwhile, 221 were "exceptionally" cleared, which is code for we can't solve them but we're going to close them anyway to boost our clearance rates.
Rep. Raúl Grijalva -- he of boycott- Arizona fame -- has called on Arpaio to resign.
The more likely response will be an immigration sweep. There's nothing like a good immigration sweep to take the faithful's minds off mismanagement and corruption.
And now, of 432 potential sex crimes ignored.
Among them, a 2-year-old taken to the hospital with vaginal pain and bruising after a stint with a baby-sitter. And three sisters, ages 4 to 10, who did what children should do when perverts put their fingers in places they don't belong. They told.
And it didn't make a darned bit of difference.
Recently, Arpaio told me that he plans to run for a sixth term next year, when he is 80 years old, and he expects to win. Every Republican presidential candidate sought his endorsement, he pointed out.
"Nothing is going to change," he told me.
That's what I'm afraid of.
Reach Roberts at firstname.lastname@example.org
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