A groundswell of demands for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's resignation continued to spread across local, county and state levels in Arizona today, as questions over his Maricopa County department's failed leadership and bungling of hundreds of reported sex crimes, including child rape and molestation, remained unanswered.
"Victims who get the courage to report sexual abuse to authorities have every right to expect law enforcement to take their report seriously and to investigate it," said state Rep. Katie Hobbs, a social worker and expert on domestic abuse who represents a district in Maricopa County. "These cases have been referred to as 'botched investigations', but really, this situation is a gross miscarriage of justice. Irreparable damage has been done to these victims and their families. Ultimately Sheriff Arpaio didn't get the job done, and it's time for him to recognize it."
After offering a questionable apology on Monday, "if there were any victims," as Arpaio quipped, the increasingly erratic and out-of-touch 79-year-old sheriff found time to ride in his beloved U.S. Army tank in the Phoenix Light Parade on Tuesday, and then tweeted about a supermarket tabloid's feature on his posse to verify President Obama's birth certificate:
A self-proclaimed hardliner who relishes the media attention for his anti-immigrant sweeps, his pink-underwear-wearing Tent City inmates and reality TV exploits, Arpaio is no stranger to controversy. Last spring, local and national groups called for his resignation, after allegations emerged over the misuse of $100 million.
But the growing controversy over his department's extraordinary mishandling of the sex crime investigations, however, has reached a tipping point of criticism and new calls for a showdown over Arpaio's future.
Among the 432 ignored reports of rape, child molestations and sex crimes, as Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts noted, was "a 2-year-old taken to the hospital with vaginal pain and bruising after a stint with a babysitter."
Earlier today at the Arizona State Capitol, Hobbs was joined by state Rep. Ruben Gallego, a ranking member of the Military Affairs & Public Safety committee, who declared Arpaio had dedicated his time to "investigating his own political enemies, avoiding internal investigations on the officers who botched the cases, misspending $100 million, and ignoring 40,000 outstanding felony arrest warrants for violent criminals," among other diversions.
"Sheriff Arpaio can make as many excuses as he wants, but when someone in the United States reports abuse to law enforcement, we investigate it," Gallego said. "We don't live in a third world country and Sheriff Arpaio shouldn't be acting like we do. Our county sheriff's office should be working to keep all of our children safe."
In Tucson, state Rep. Daniel Patterson added: "I stand in strong support of the hundreds of victims, many children, who were wronged by Arpaio's negligence and I join my colleagues in calling for his resignation now. Time to go, Joe!"
Pablo Alvarado, of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, called for federal intervention:
We are pleased attention has properly returned to Sheriff Arpaio and we agree he should resign. However, the White House role in Maricopa's crisis deserves greater scrutiny and requires immediate action. Sheriff Arpaio's mishandling of crime cases is the direct result his out-of-control and discriminatory focus on immigration; focus he's able to implement through federal contracts.
Tomorrow, Thursday, Dec. 8th, with the support of the powerful Citizens for a Better Arizona, which recently organized the recall of Arpaio-backed state Sen. President Russell Pearce, the Town of Guadalupe Council Meeting will consider a special resolution calling for Arpaio's resignation. In a statement today, State Rep. Catherine Miranda offered her support for the resolution:
I am pleased and very supportive with The Town of Guadalupe making a public statement regarding Sheriff Arpaio. Investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes should be the highest priority in Sheriff Arpaio's office. Victims of sexual crimes must be willing to overcome fear and intimidation to be willing to report these crimes when they are committed. If the victims of sex crimes do not feel that the Sheriff's office will deport them then we will have criminals free to commit crimes without fear of prosecution. It's time that we move to a new era of public collaboration and confidence in our Maricopa County Sheriff's office. We need change and we need it before one more person is victimized by both the person committing the assault and the Sheriff's office who does not meet their elected responsibilities. I commend the Town of Guadalupe for taking the lead.
The Guadalupe resolution is here: