At least one member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors wants to learn more about Sheriff Joe Arpaio's operations.
Supervisor Don Stapley said Wednesday that he has requested a briefing by Maricopa County Sheriff's Office officials to learn why deputies are failing to meet the county's standard response times to life-threatening emergencies.
Stapley said he made the request last week after reading about the issue in the Tribune, and he wanted to get more details from the sheriff's office.
"I haven't received those reports. I've only read about them in the newspaper, and we're in the process of trying to be briefed about that to get the facts," Stapley said.
The Tribune reported earlier this month that response times to "priority one" calls spiked across the county after Arpaio created his human smuggling unit in April 2006 and began pulling deputies off their patrol beats to staff the squad that focuses on illegal immigration.
The county's expectation for response times is five minutes, but the Tribune investigation, "Reasonable Doubt," found that in 2006 and 2007, deputies arrived late two-thirds of the time on more than 6,000 calls.
MCSO's average response time for life-threatening emergencies is 10 minutes, the newspaper found.
"It's certainly something we want to work with them on," said Stapley, who represents District 2, which takes in most of the East Valley.
"If they need more funding to improve the response times, and we have the ability to do that, then we will," he said. "But they haven't asked for any more money."
Arpaio said later he was unaware that Stapley had asked for a briefing, but that "if he wants to know, we'll be glad to let him know."
Stapley's comments came after hundreds of people affiliated with a group called Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability attended a board meeting Wednesday morning to request greater oversight of the sheriff's office.
"Our issues are concerns about safety and how our tax dollars are being spent," Raquel Teran, founding director of the group, told the supervisors.
She and other members of the organization said they were frustrated that most supervisors have declined to meet with them to discuss their grievances.
Speaking to board chairman Andy Kunasek, she said, "We've sent out letters to you and we've not heard from you, we have not had a response. We really want to sit down and address our issues. Our concerns have not gone away."
Members of the group appealed to the board at last month's meeting as well.
Several speakers said they believed Arpaio was using county funding to conduct racial profiling. The funds would be better spent, they said, bolstering response times, investigating rapes and other crimes, and apprehending felons wanted on outstanding warrants.
Teran said the group will stage a community forum to discuss the issues on Aug. 19. She invited Kunasek to serve as a panel member at the event. Kunasek did not immediately respond.
Stapley said the group was misdirected in suggesting that the board should provide more oversight of the sheriff's office.
"Unfortunately, state statute does not allow the board of supervisors to set policy for the county sheriff," Stapley said.
"He's an independently elected constitutional officer. And as such, we are required to fund him at reasonable levels. He is within his budget and has managed his budget properly."
People with concerns about MCSO's policies should direct their concerns to Arpaio directly, he said.
Stapley noted that he has differed with Arpaio on a number of issues, including Arpaio's decision to limit jail inmates to two meals a day, but that the board has no authority to change the sheriff's policies.
"These demonstrators ought to go back to school and understand what the constitutional sheriff's role is," he said. "I am not a chief of police that reports to a city council or a city manager or a mayor. I'm the sheriff. I report directly to the people. I don't report to the board of supervisors. They don't tell me what to do."