CREATED Apr 5, 2012
Reporter: Craig Smith
PHOENIX (KGUN9-TV) - He bills himself as America’s toughest sheriff. Now Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio is in a new battle---or maybe an entirely new war with the US Justice Department. The issue: Will he let court appointed monitors look over his shoulder while his department does its day to day business?
The Justice Department and Sheriff Arpaio were supposed to negotiate a way to settle claims his department makes a habit of racial profiling.
That idea hit a wall when, Arpaio said no way, no how, will he allow special observers to look over his shoulder.
In a news conference Tuesday he said, “They want a monitor to control my policies and how I operate, including tents, pink underwear, and everything else.”
Pink underwear and un-air conditioned tents for jail inmates are some of the trademarks that made Arpaio’s national reputation.
But critics say he’s in trouble with the Feds because he’s developed a reputation for a department that goes out of it’s way to target Hispanics, in the name of immigration enforcement.
Longtime critics like Randy Parraz of Citizens for a Better Arizona ask, what do what do you have to hide?
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Parraz: "How would these monitors work and what are the chances they’d really see anything significant that could happen in front of them?
Parraz: That’s part of the negotiation process. Our understanding is they’re independent monitors who have no authority to run the office. They don’t take on the power of the sheriff.”
While Sheriff Arpaio is proud to claim broad public support, people we asked at random also said if there’s nothing to hide, why not let special monitors see that for themselves?
Craig Smith asked Phoenix resident Dennis Merworth: "What’s your overall opinion of him and how he does things?"
Merworth said, "I think he goes a little over the top sometimes; his rhetoric and trying to do showmanship instead of actually doing what he should be doing.”
Now the Department of Justice is questioning whether Arpaio ever really wanted to settle the accusations, or whether he’s just trying to waste investigators time.
KGUN9 News tried repeatedly to question Sheriff Arpaio directly Thursday. Members of his public relations staff turned down four requests. They said he had a full schedule of speeches, but would not disclose where those speeches were.