The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office will end out-of-state extraditions for other Valley police departments, leaving the task in the hands of the agencies who arrested the fugitives before they went on the lam.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio informed police chiefs around the Valley in a May 8 letter that fiscal restraints are forcing him to end the service as of July 1.
Valley police departments will have to pay the sheriff's office for the extraditions or come up with their own programs.
The sheriff's office spent about $1.4 million last year picking up 739 felons who were arrested in other states and wanted here.
David Gonzalez, U.S. Marshal for Arizona, said his agency, which has an air transport service commonly known as Con Air, has offered to take over the task, and local departments are also mulling over the possibility of pooling their resources and creating an extradition task force.
Gonzalez said the U.S. Marshal's Service would charge cities to pick up felons and deliver them on its air service, which officially is known as Justice Prisoner and Alien Transportation System, or JPATS.
Having the Marshal's Service do the extraditions would probably be more cost effective than for cities to do it themselves, Gonzalez said.
Most extraditions are done on commercial airlines and require two officers to escort the prisoner.
A city would have to pay for two seats out and three seats back, all on short notice, which would increase the cost, Gonzalez said.
"You can't plan these in advance," Gonzalez said.
A group of Valley police chiefs is going to meet next week with the Marshal's Service to decide how to proceed.
A 1990 attorney general opinion states that county sheriffs are not required to perform extraditions for police departments, and there is no state law that explicitly states they must, but it is a job sheriffs have traditionally done.
For instance, while the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has devoted a group of deputies to the task, the Pinal County Sheriff's Office has contracted with a private company for years to do it.
Chief Brian Sands of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said the four positions budgeted for extradition are no longer enough, and patrol deputies are being used more often.
The Sheriff's Office recently agreed to a $17 million budget reduction.
"Because of those cuts we have to come up with some decisions ourselves to stay within the allocated budget," Arpaio said. "If it affects other certain municipalities, that's the way it's going to be. I am not mandated to transport prisoners for other jurisdictions, but I am mandated to transport my own."
Loretta Barkell, MCSO business services chief, said the agency will save at least $500,000 by ending the extraditions for other police departments.