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America’s toughest sheriff, Joe Arpaio Discipline and Love The George W. Bush presidential campaign has pulped a small forest faxing press re leases to the news media, many of them trumpeting the candidate’s host of official endorsements. Filled with blather about “the leadership of the great state of so-andso,” most do not bear reading, let alone reporting. But on October 20 a fax headlined “Arizona Sheriff Endorses Governor Bush” set off Left Field’s finely-tuned bullshit detector. Datelined Maricopa County, this bulletin announced an enthusiastic Bush endorsement by Joe Arpaio, “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” Arpaio has garnered national publicity for his “tent cities” for Maricopa County jail inmates, where prisoners wear pink underwear and work on chain gangs including special female chain gangs devoted to digging graves for local indigents. The Bush press release praised Arpaio’s “effective and inexpensive alternative to traditional jails,” and his “get-tough stance [which] stirred the interest of the national and foreign media.” The Governor said he was “honored” to have Arpaio’s support. The Bush press release was more interesting for what it didn’t mention. Arpaio says he shares Bush’s philosophy of “compassionate conservatism.” But according to voluminous reports in the Arizona press, for the last several years Arpaio’s office has been the subject of several investigations for various forms of brutality and corruption. During his regime, an apparently helpless prisoner was beaten and suffocated to death; another in poor health died of heat stroke when deputies “punished” him by closing off all ventilation to his overheated cell; a third received a permanent neck injury and lost the use of his arm when deputies bound him tightly in a restraint chair and ignored his pleas for help. He was already a paraplegic when they arrested him. Moreover, rather than saving money for the county, Arpaio’s treatment of prisoners \(many county jail inmates, incidentally, are not serving sentences, but merely awaiting trial, in more than 800 lawsuits against the county, according to The Phoenix New Times. Those suits 170 of which are still active have resulted in enormous legal expenses for the county. One suit cost taxpayers $1 million in attorney fees, plus $8.25 million in settlement costs; in another, a jury awarded a former inmate $1.5 million after it found that the county had negligently handled the inmate’s medical needs. That’s not all. Over the years, The Phoenix New Times, which sued the sheriff’s office after Arpaio refused to release public county records, has chronicled the lowlights of Arpaio’s mored car costing $70,000. He proudly described it as “missile proof, bomb proof, and gun proof.” Arpaio used county funds to pay for a private attorney in a lawsuit against the county, and for videotapes of his own television appearances. The auditor general reported that Arpaio had misused a total of $122,419. Arpaio’s office was the subject of a two year F.B.I. investigation stemming from complaints of former deputies concerning mishandling and possible theft of “pink underwear money” \(Arpaio’s citizen “Posses” bankruptcy fraud, and illegal surveillance of Arpaio’s political enemies including potential candidates for county sheriff. Not enough evidence was found to prosecute. A separate Department of Justice investigation, however, found that inmates were subject to an unconstitutional mix of excessive force and negligent medical care in Maricopa County. And a federal civil rights investigation is still ongoing, stemming from the death of a prisoner in the county jail. Still, Governor Bush is glad to have Arpaio on board. “He understands that in order to reduce the rate of juvenile crime, discipline and love must go hand in hand,” Bush said. + distinguished career: Obsessed with supposed threats against his life, Arpaio recently had his office purchase for him an ar NOVEMBER 12, 1999 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 7