Sheriff Joe: Visionary who only sees black and white

Comment #5 – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If more people took their jobs half as seriously as Sheriff Joe, we would have less corruption, less crime, and less bureaucratic red tape.  Not every one may agree with him or his tactics but he gets the job done.  He does not worry about political correctness. The law is the law, period.  Illegal immigrants are not called “illegal” for no reason. They are here, sucking up benefits that belong to Americans and legal immigrants.  Hello America!! Wake up!!

By Logan Jenkins ,

Thursday, August 12, 2010 at midnight

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I’m riding to Lindbergh Field with Joe Arpaio.

“America’s Toughest Sheriff,” a title that makes him seem like a circus act, is telling about the time he was tipped that people “were drinking cat’s blood in a section of Phoenix and nobody would do anything. At the same time the inmates were destroying the plumbing in the jail.”

Arpaio started up an animal-cruelty unit — five detectives (“nobody else has that”) — and placed abused cats and dogs into air-conditioned jail cells where they enjoy meals that cost twice as much as the unseasoned food (no pepper or salt allowed) served to lawbreakers.

Banished from the jail, prisoners in Maricopa County sleep in Korean War tents in which temperatures can sweat up to 135 degrees in the summer. The inmates, men and women alike, work on chain gangs.

“Somebody has to protect the animals,” the sheriff says. And somebody has to punish the criminals.

And if he generates headlines, so much the better for the gruff 78-year-old sheriff, a latter-day Judge Roy Bean, whose cell phone opens to an official portrait of himself and for its ring tone plays “My Way.”

Arpaio’s appearance, which drew 150 leather-lunged Latino protesters and TV crews, was something of a PR coup for the Rancho Bernardo-based Conservative Order for Good Government, the organization that some 10 years ago stopped calling itself the Conservative Order of Good Guys.

A typical COGG meeting with a garden-variety speaker might number 65 or 70. On Tuesday, the turnout was 220 mature conservatives with 100 having to be turned away for lack of seating, reported a pleased Marty Judge, COGG’s president.

When the sheriff entered the Country Club of Rancho Bernardo’s dining room — an hour or so earlier it had been checked by bomb-sniffing dogs — the crowd rose as if Frank Sinatra were heading to the microphone.

Minutes before, Arpaio, sensing a media money shot, had gone out to meet the protesters who view Arpaio as a symbol of racial intolerance.

If anything, Arpaio was amused, not upset, by the angry screamers.

In the car, he’d tell of 11 buses coming from California to Phoenix to protest Arizona’s controversial law requiring police to check the legal status of crime suspects.

As it turned out, the protesters were a godsend for the economy.

Despite threats of various boycotts against Arizona, “it was one of our best months for hotels because of all the demonstrators.”

And then he added with a comedian’s timing, “A few of them got free room and board.”

In one of his tents.

One on one, he’s a hard guy to dislike.

The son of an Italian immigrant grocer — his mother died during childbirth — he’s clear, not clever; blunt, not fancy.

“I worked hard to get a C in high school,” he tells me.

He went right into the army after high school. His stint covered the duration of the Korean War, but he served in France, of all places.

Later, he became a D.C. cop and then served in top executive positions in the Drug Enforcement Administration in Turkey, Mexico and the American Sunbelt. In 1992 he ran for sheriff in Maricopa County and he kept getting re-elected.

Today, he’s larger than life, a media-savvy throwback to the Wild West. He may not be the best sheriff in the country, but he’s surely the best known.

He doesn’t get twisted up in ethical analysis or bureaucratic ambiguity. Gray is a color he can’t see.

It’s simple. Break the law, go to jail. Enter this country illegally, go back where you came from. When you’re gone, a legal resident can do your job. We don’t need you. Do things the right way.

You don’t want criminals to break the law again? You make jail miserable.

And animals, you treat them like humans. At least they haven’t done anything wrong.

I suspect if Sheriff Joe Arpaio didn’t exist, it would have been necessary to invent him. He embodies an American type of lawman, one some of us respect and others detest.

But mind you, he wouldn’t be elected in San Diego. Not since the John Duffy era have we had a sheriff with the brash independence of an Arpaio.

Sheriff Bill Kolender was — and his successor, Sheriff William Gore, is — a smooth bureaucratic operator on excellent terms with the county supervisors. Both avoid conflict. They see the nuance. They would never put animals in jail and prisoners in tents.

As he climbs out to catch his Southwest flight, Arpaio hands me a business card and tells me to look him up if I make it to Phoenix.

“I’ll take you to the tents,” he says with a sly smile.

The way he says it, it’s as if they are the greatest shows on earth.



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