Richardson: Arpaio's 's reputation as crime fighter undeserved - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

Richardson: Arpaio's 's reputation as crime fighter undeserved

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Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

Posted: Monday, June 9, 2014 4:00 pm

“(Maricopa County Sheriff Joe) Arpaio should be commended for lowering crime and rescuing animals from certain death. You don't have to like his schtick.” Gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones responding to a question from KPNX’s Brahm Resnik on why she sought Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s endorsement.

Arpaio’s boasts of arresting dishwashers and landscapers have yet to make Arizona safer.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has an unenviable history of serious indiscretions and mismanagement of its law enforcement duties and resources. While the sheriff has been quick to tout his puppy and pony saving efforts, including caring for a dog that mauled a small child to point of blindness and deformity, don’t forget Arpaio’s bungling of over 400 criminal investigations involving sexual assaults on women and children.

Then there’s the scathing 2008 Goldwater Institute report, Mission Unaccomplished: The Misplaced Priorities of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Author Clint Bolick points out, “Although MCSO is adept at self-promotion and is unquestionably a ‘tough’ law-enforcement agency, under its watch violent crime rates recently have soared, both in absolute terms and relative to other jurisdictions.”

It has diverted resources away from basic law-enforcement functions to highly publicized immigration sweeps, which are ineffective in policing illegal immigration and in reducing crime granularly.”

In the interest of disclosure I have been a contributor to reports written by the Goldwater Institute.

Jones’ portrayal of Arpaio as an effective crime fighter is a telling statement for a candidate who wants to be our next governor and boasts of her prosecutorial and legal background as qualifiers to takeover a state with serious crime problems. Arpaio has an unenviable record of shame and law enforcement failures that have resulted in the sheriff’s office now being monitored by the federal government.

Arizona’s crime problems are real and go well beyond the publicity grabbing antics of Arpaio. Crime problems that the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the U. S. Department of Justice estimates that 60 percent to 90 percent of the serious crimes committed are linked to organized crime gangs.

Gangs like the one that was responsible for murdering a Salt River Police Department officer last month and have been linked to a laundry list of violent and serious crimes against the state’s citizenry and businesses. The Salt River gang reportedly has 149 documented members who are known to extend their criminal activities outside of the Salt River community and into bordering cities, including Mesa and Scottsdale.

Statewide there are an estimated 30,000-40,000 gang members. The estimate is due in to law enforcement’s lack of a concerted statewide and countywide effort to identify and target gang crimes.

In an on air discussion with KPNX following the murder of a Salt River police officer by gang members, Arizona State University Professor Scott Decker told KPNX News law enforcement hasn’t paid adequate attention to gang problems.

Too many people, including elected officials, have been distracted from serious crime problems by Arpaio’s “schtick.” The real crime monster in Arizona isn’t the undocumented misdemeanants and civil statute violators; it’s the career criminals and gangsters who control the streets, state prisons and even the Maricopa County jail. Criminals that are so emboldened they plot to kill police officers and carry out continual attacks on our state.

Millions of dollars in anti-gang funding destined for state and local police agencies was siphoned off by the state Legislature to fund Arpaio’s nefarious anti-dishwasher crime suppression sweeps.

While governor wannabe Jones touts Arpaio as a crime fighter when the Sinaloa Drug Cartel, Mexican Mafia Prison Gang and countless street gangs with allegiances to the cartels and mafia are evolving into refined criminal organizations and growing unchecked in Maricopa County.

Maricopa County has become a major center in the supply chain of global organized crime that moved into metro Phoenix largely unchallenged. Thanks in large part to our weak sheriff who has failed to lead a countywide effort to target real criminals who now operate with impunity.

Jones can applaud Arpaio for saving puppies all she wants but Arizona needs a governor who knows what real crime is and how to lead the fight against it.

• Retired Mesa master police officer Bill Richardson lives in the East Valley and can be reached at

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