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Joe's Law : America's Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs, and Everything Else That Threatens America
Outspoken, no-nonsense, and eminently fascinating, Joseph M. Arpaio captured the public's imagination from his first day as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1992. He has become an icon, not only in his own state, but all over the world. For 15 years, he has maintained an unprecedented 80% approval rating. Famous for his "get smart and get tough" approach to jails, "Sheriff Joe," as he is universally known, conceived The Tent City Jail where he houses his inmates in surplus army tents left over from the Korean War. Known as the "Alcatraz of Arizona," the jail features chain gangs and stringent discipline. By eliminating all comforts for his inmates, he has managed to shave $500,000 annually from the cost of keeping prisoners. But he also offers a wide range of educational and therapeutic courses for inmates. To his ardent followers, he is a hero for both his toughness on crime and his sense of humanity. While his opponents decry him for his iron-fisted approach, no one can deny that Sheriff Joe is one of the country's most respected elected officials.
Joe's Law is an uncensored look by "America's Toughest Sheriff" at some of the most important and difficult issues facing America today. As the first law enforcement official in the country to arrest illegal immigrants, Arpaio tackles illegal immigration head on--how it intertwines with drug trafficking, taxes, and crime, and how it impacts healthcare and education as well. Arpaio offers innovative and fair ways to solve this dilemma and many others, not only in his own state but throughout the country. Compelling and courageous, this is a candid take on some of America's most pressing social problems, and one man's revolutionary vision for eliminating them.
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May 28, 2008
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Excerpt from Joe's Law by Joe Arpaio
CHAPTER ONE--THE BOTTOM LINE
I DROVE OVER to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) Training Center, located on the west side of town. It's a huge facility, necessary to accommodate our needs. I walked up to the second floor and down the hallway, past classrooms teaching new recruits the fine points of being a law enforcement officer, a Maricopa County deputy sheriff, or detention officer. Other classrooms were filled with not only deputies and detention officers but also cops from other departments, all going over changes and advances in every related aspect of serving and protecting. Other young men and women dressed in shirts and T-shirts, in-between exercise modules or self-defense classes, hurried through the halls, flattening themselves against the walls whenever a superior officer strode by.
Lisa Allen, my longtime, immensely capable, and absolutely essential director of public information, led the way. She had arranged what was about to happen. For once, I was just along for the ride.
I walked into the large room we used for meetings and other get-togethers and was greeted by a couple hundred people shouting "Happy Birthday!" in ragged unison. It was my seventy-fifth birthday, and Lisa had arranged a celebration with coworkers and friends and Italian food from Buca di Beppo. A very big cake was wheeled out. It not only had an excessive number of candles, but was also accompanied by two firefighters in full gear. Lisa's idea of a joke--and not a bad one, I had to admit.
After amateur Elvis impersonator and professional detention officer Bret Kaiser finished with his rendition of "Happy Birthday," Presley-style, and my chief deputy Dave Hendershott offered his own version, showing himself to be not only musical but also surprisingly nimble for a large fellow, it was my turn to say something. Noting the many law enforcement officers and officials in the room, mainly though not entirely from my own department, I stated that while the sheriff sets the policy, the office is only as good as its employees, and we were fortunate to have the best, from top to bottom. It's never smart to break up a winning team, and I wasn't about to break up ours, not as long as I held office, which I intended to do for at least another four years, come next November. And who knew, maybe another four years after that.
And so the party continued, with pasta and cake and a lot of storytelling. And then, after some more fun, lunch was over and it was time for the deputies and lieutenants and captains and chiefs to get back to work, and that included me, too.
And I knew something that most of the others, even in that room, did not know. That while my talk of four or even eight more years of service was heartfelt, it also contained maybe a touch of bravado, because there was a threat hanging over my head, a threat unlike any other I had faced in a career filled with threats and dangers and even bullets flying past my head. It was a threat that endangered not only myself but also my wife, my family, and anyone near me. It was a threat that crossed borders and was the result of my work, work that could not, would not, stop.
It was a threat that meant my pledge to serve for many more years, for any more years, could prove to be a hollow boast. I knew it, and a handful of my deputies and detectives knew it, and some cops and agents in other agencies involved in the case knew it, too. Apart from that relatively small group, we had kept our awareness of the conspiracy secret while we conducted our investigation.
It was a race against a threat that had begun for me on March 21, 2007. That was the day the Yuma Police Department contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office to say it had uncovered a plot to assassinate me.
The idea that somebody wanted me dead hardly constituted cause for me to jump up and barricade the door. I've lived with a near constant round of threatening phone calls, letters, and e-mails since becoming sheriff. And, even so, all this unpleasantness has been small potatoes compared to my previous life as a fed: The drug business is a vicious business, with the criminal organizations and gangs in charge willing to kill anyone and everyone who interferes or could conceivably interfere with their profits. I worked undercover for decades, in country after country, always one misstep, one careless word, one betrayal away from exposure and a bullet between my eyes, a bomb under my car, a knife across my throat.
As sheriff, it's been different and still more of the same. The potential players and deadly scenarios take on their own special character in Maricopa County, far from the mountains of Turkey or the streets of Mexico City or the jungles of Panama. Back in my days as a fed, there was usually a very direct, very unadulterated quality about those threats, that danger--the bad guys versus me, face-to-face, frequently gun-to-gun.
That's not the way it is now. I run law enforcement for the county. I run the jails. I deal with policy and programs and, God help me, politicians. I don't go undercover and I don't walk a beat, so my relationship with those we investigate and arrest is, at best, one step removed. So while the threats are specific and personal, they're from criminals and degenerates and murderers I haven't had the up-close pleasure of busting.
In a funny way, it's almost more disconcerting than what was always hanging over my head in my federal career. Back then, at least I had a fair idea who would be interested in gunning for me and why. Now, I have no way of knowing which of the 1.5 million people who've spent time in my jails since I became sheriff might want me dead, not to mention all the others, whether lowlife or high-flying criminals, who might be more than a little annoyed with how my actions have interfered with their interests or otherwise offended their sensibilities.
So I've had a long list of would-be assassins appear on my metaphorical doorstep. The first was in the Madison Street Jail, bonding out his wife, when he threatened to shoot me. The second was on the other side of the bars at the same jail, in custody, when he somehow managed to get my home phone number and began calling me, announcing how he was planning a drive-by shooting with the aim of killing me. The third called my office and threatened me. The fourth stalked me and called numerous times with regard to my announced public appearances, when he wasn't leaving a message in a rap song that referred to killing me. The fifth sent harassing and threatening letters to both an ex-friend of his and to me. Investigators discovered a weapons cache in his possession. The sixth sent six threatening e-mails, in which he stated he possessed a knife and was going to kill me by either stabbing me in the heart or slitting my throat. Just to round it out, he also promised to rape and kill a local female news anchor. When he was picked up, he had a folding knife in his pocket. The seventh was a conspiracy among three jail inmates to murder both then-governor Jane Hull and myself.
All were arrested and convicted.
Still more cases haven't been resolved. One person obtained an MCSO radio frequency and called in, on fourteen occasions, to inform me, "I'm gonna put a bullet in your brain," or some such similar sentiment. Another called the Glendale PD to issue death threats against me, accompanied by several audible gunshots heard over the phone. Yet another shot up a mailbox in the parking lot of a shopping center in Anthem and wrote various menacing statements on the box, including this gem, bereft of punctuation: "Joe by the time you read this you will have heard the boom." And still another mailed me a spent bullet casing with a note that promised, "The next one will be for real and you better watch your back."
Some threats resolve themselves, and not usually in happy ways. In May 2002, a jail inmate loudly threatened to kill me. Soon thereafter, he hanged himself.
Seven people have been convicted of charges related to threatening me. Another six have charges pending. Another two are awaiting trial. Those are the ones we've identified, tracked, and caught. That's definitely not everybody.
And so, considering the history, you'll forgive me if I took this latest news with a dash of skepticism.
But then I heard the details and I had to pause and think again. After all, even though anyone can learn how to make a bomb (thanks to the Internet), that doesn't mean you can figure out a way to get it surreptitiously in position where it will do the most harm. This plot had the earmarks of people who not only understood how to do things, but also how to actually get them done.
The initial incident report didn't give away much in the way of details. The first line to fill in read "Incident/Crime," and the investigating detective had typed, "Threats to Commit Off." That was it. Didn't sound like much. The incident was assigned a case number and a location, which was the Yuma PD's office.
There are a lot of categories, with a lot of little boxes to check off. Location of Offense? The choices start with Air/Bus/Train Terminal, then proceed alphabetically to Bar/Nightclub, Construction Site, Grocery/Supermarket, Lake/Water, Residence/Home, School/ College, or Other/Unknown, with many more possibilities in-between. That last box, Other/Unknown, was checked, a theme that would continue throughout the report. Suspect--unknown. Home address--unknown. Age--unknown. Height, weight, hair color, eyes, complexion, build, driver's license: unknown.