Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County’s conservative sheriff for almost 24 years. ( Gage Skidmore / CC 2.0)
So long, Joe Arpaio. After almost 24 years as sheriff in Arizona’s Maricopa County, the 84-year-old incumbent lost his re-election bid to Democrat Paul Penzone, who won 55 percent of the vote.
Latinos, estimated to account for nearly 20 percent of votes in the state, and young liberals are likely to have secured the downfall of “America’s toughest sheriff” in Arizona’s largest county.
Penzone, a former Phoenix Police Department sergeant who lost to Arpaio in 2012, will take over as sheriff with promises of reform, which he says will include establishing law enforcement that does not utilize racial profiling.
Arpaio’s six terms as sheriff cost the county tens of millions of dollars in lawsuits and settlements. The Washington Post reports:
One racial profiling case, which began in 2007, ultimately cost the county more than $41 million, according to the Associated Press. A lawsuit filed by Hispanic plaintiffs argued that the sheriff’s deputies unconstitutionally targeted Latinos at traffic stops.
In 2011, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow ordered the sheriff’s office to stop detaining people solely on suspicion that they were undocumented immigrants, without reference to whether they had reason to believe they had committed a crime.
In October, Arpaio was charged with criminal contempt of court for resisting Snow’s order. If convicted, his sentence could include jail time of up to six months. He pleaded not guilty at the end of October; the trial is set to be held Dec. 6.
In a speech during the Republican National Convention, Arpaio supported building a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, saying, “We have terrorists coming over our borders, infiltrating our security, causing massive destruction and mayhem. We have criminals penetrating our weak border security system and committing serious crimes.”
In his victory speech, Penzone, standing in front of a Hillary Clinton-Tim Kaine banner, talked about earning back the respect of Maricopa County’s citizens. He said:
Arizona stands for something greater, that no matter where we come from or what we look like or what our beliefs are, we are all entitled to respect. … We will no longer stand for the things we’ve seen where the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has been identified because [of] the notoriety of one. You will now know a sheriff’s office who is appreciated because of the sacrifices of many.
—Posted by KiMi Robinson