Vice President Pence Calling Joe Arpaio a "Tireless Champion" of "Rule of Law" Ignores Arpaio's Record

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2016, photo, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is joined by Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a campaign event in Marshalltown, Iowa. Arpaio says he isn't asking now President Donald Trump to issue a pardon for his misdemeanor conviction last week for defying a judge's order to stop his immigration patrols, even though he endorsed Trump and shared the stage with him at several rallies during the 2016 campaign. The former six-term sheriff of metro Phoenix said he doesn't expect anything in return for his support of Trump and that he doesn't feel abandoned by the president. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

At an event in Arizona on Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence introduced former Sheriff Joe Arpaio as a “tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law.” This shamefully ignores Arpaio’s many victims who were denied justice while he was in office — some of whom died as a result.


Arpaio served as the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, for 24 years until he lost his reelection in 2016 to Democrat Paul Penzone. The 85-year-old is now running against Representative Martha McSally and Kelli Ward in the Republican primary for Senator Jeff Flake’s seat in the U.S. Senate.

Considering the type of person Arpaio has shown himself to be, everything about Pence’s introduction regarding Arpaio was appalling. Arpaio’s injustices and abuses of his power are well-documented, to the point that he was convicted of criminal contempt of court in 2017 (for which he was then pardoned by President Trump).

Here is a quick, incomplete summary of Arpaio’s history of abusing his power, failing to properly investigate crimes, and improperly clearing investigations:

  • He created an extension of his jail known as “Tent City,” which he described as a “concentration camp” and where inside temperatures sometimes exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit, once hitting 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • He “forced inmates to wear pink underwear” in an attempt to humiliate them and then sold replica pink underwear to the public.
  • He served inmates just two meals a day and charged inmates for meals.
  • Inmates in his jail have died in pools of their own vomit and feces and after having their mouths bound with towels and suffocating in restraint chairs.
  • A U.S. district court judge in 2008 determined the conditions at Arpaio’s jail were unconstitutional and ordered Arpaio to provide “necessary medical and mental health care”; “uninterrupted access to all medicines prescribed by correctional medical staff”; “access to toilets, sinks, toilet paper, and soap”; and “food that meets or exceeds the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s dietary guidelines.”
  • Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office may have improperly marked approximately 80% of cases as solved without making any arrests or proper investigations. AZCentral reports that “among the 3,977 criminal cases cleared by MCSO in fiscal year 2006, just 21 percent of those cases were cleared by arrest.”
  • The Associated Press reported that “more than 400 sex-crimes reported to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office during a three-year period ending in 2007 – including dozens of alleged child molestations” were “inadequately investigated and in some instances were not worked at all.”
  • The Associated Press reported that in just El Mirage, “officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations – with victims as young as 2 years old – where the sheriff’s office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases.”
  • In one 14-year-old’s rape case, MCSO investigators didn’t even bother to obtain a copy of a videotape of the rape, even though it had been passed around by dozens of high schoolers, and “after one suspect failed to show up for questioning, the MSCO closed out the file” as “cleared” without bothering to tell the victim.
  • The U.S. Department of Justice determined that the worst pattern of racial profiling in U.S. history occurred under Arpaio.
  • His conviction of criminal contempt was for “violating an order that he cease arresting and detaining people for whom there was no plausible criminal charge — i.e., the court asked him, pretty please, to stop detaining Mexicans for publicity purposes.”
  • Wrongful death lawsuits filed against Arpaio and his office have cost taxpayers millions.
  • Since Sheriff Joe Arpaio took office in 1993, his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has paid nearly $146 million in fees, settlements, and court awards – again, funded by taxpayers.

And this is the person Pence said he was “honored” to have there and who he said was a “tireless champion” of “rule of law.”

Nothing about Sheriff Joe Arpaio resembles any sort of justice or law and order under the United States Constitution, and it is disgraceful for Pence to pretend otherwise.

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.


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