The Warlord of Maricopa

At some point, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio decided that the rules no longer applied to him. He and his deputies had all the guns, so why couldn’t they do whatever they want? If those guys in Somalia and Afganistan could become warlords, why couldn’t he do it right here in America?

I think it must have started years ago, back when I first heard about Apaio. He was billing himself as “the toughest sheriff in America.” If you don’t already know, try to imagine what he must have done to claim that. Did he break up a bank robbery single-handed? Infiltrate a drug gang? Clean out corruption in his own department? Bust an organize crime syndicate?

No, nothing like that. He’s tough on the prisoners in his jail. They don’t get goodies like coffee or cigarettes or porno mags, they have very limited television viewing, and they spend a lot of time in chain gangs. And they eat very cheap food. Also, he makes them all wear pink underwear. Basically, he makes things very hard on a bunch of people who are powerless.

That’s not tough. That’s being a bully. A sadistic, hateful bully. (And one of the few Americans ever investigated by Amnesty International.)

I’d forgotten about Arpaio, but it appears that his hunger to control people has continued to grow. I noticed him again a few years ago when he arrested the owners of a Phoenix newspaper for publishing a story he didn’t like, and tried to force them to reveal information about their readers.

That’s almost unheard of in this country. Thanks to the First Amendment, journalists have a lot of legal protection. They routinely investigate and publish personal scandals, corporate trade secrets, and national security information without repercussions. The few exceptions are so rare that they have become the subjects of books and movies. Arresting journalists is the kind of crap they pull in third-world dictatorships.

Which is, I think, what Sheriff Joe Arpaio is trying to build for himself. He’s spent many years as absolute ruler over the people in his prisons, and he now thinks that’s a fine model for his relationship to the rest of the county as well. His deputies are his own personal army, and he’s the Warlord of Maricopa County.

Arpaio’s latest trick is right out of the dictator play book: He’s trying to arrest a judge who ruled against him. The county attorney filing the charges, Andrew Thomas, was also involved in arresting the reporters.

Somehow all of this is escaping the attention of the national media. Do they not realize that Maricopa County is having a constitutional crisis? Do they not understand? Are they too busy covering Tiger Woods’ personal life? It boggles the mind that all this is going on and it’s not front page news.

If any of you are interested, however, Mark Bennett has collected a lot more information about this story.

The good news is that Joe Arpaio will probably not be Sheriff of Maricopa County for much longer. The bad news is that’s because he’s currently leading the polls for the Arizona Governor’s race.

What are the chances he will try to arrest the other candidates?

Update: Via Josh King in the comments at Simple Justice, here’s a new summary of what Arpaio’s been up to.

3 responses to “The Warlord of Maricopa”

  1. Dr X

    “He’s currently leading the polls for the Arizona Governor’s race.”

    This is disgraceful. Shame on the people of Arizona.

  2. Alison Hicks

    Sheriff Joe Arpaio is leading the polls in what race?

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