A Tale Of Two Sheriffs: Arizona's Clarence Dupnik & Joe Arpaio

January 10, 2011 10:31 am ET

Following the tragic shooting in Arizona this weekend, Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik lamented that Arizona has "become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry" and denounced "the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out." Dupnik's comments stand in stark contrast to the words and actions of Arizona's most famous law enforcement official, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. In addition to charges of racial profiling in his crusade against illegal immigration, Arpaio has said that illegal immigrants are "all dirty" and dismissed concerns about civil rights as "crap."  

Sheriff Clarence Dupnik

Sheriff Dupnik Says Arizona Has "Become The Mecca For Prejudice And Bigotry." According to the Huffington Post, "Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik said that the state has 'become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.' ... 'When you look at unbalanced people, how they respond to the vitriol that comes out of certain mouths about tearing down the government. The anger, the hatred, the bigotry that goes on in this country is getting to be outrageous,' said the sheriff. 'And unfortunately, Arizona I think has become sort of the capital. We have become the mecca for prejudice and bigotry.'" [Huffington Post, 1/9/11]

Sheriff Dupnik Calls For "Soul Searching" About "Vitriolic Rhetoric." According to the Los Angeles Times: "He went on to point a finger at the media. 'I think it's time as a country that we do a little soul-searching. Because I think it's the vitriolic rhetoric that we hear day in and day out, from people in the radio business, and some people in the TV business that this has not become the nice United States of America that most of us grew up in,' Dupnik said. Referring to the increasing vitriol, he said, 'that may be free speech, but it may not be without consequences.'[Los Angeles Times1/9/11]

Sheriff Joe Arpaio

Extreme Words...

Sheriff Arpaio: Illegal Immigrants Are "All Dirty" And Should Be Checked Like "Fruits And Vegetables." In an interview with GQ, Sheriff Joe Arpaio said: "All these people that come over, they could come with disease. There's no control, no health checks or anything. They check fruits and vegetables, how come they don't check people? No one talks about that! They're all dirty. I sent out 200 inmates into the desert, they picked up 18 tons of garbage that they bring in-the baby diapers and all that. Where's everybody who wants to preserve the desert?" [GQ, 10/9/09, emphasis added]

Sheriff Arpaio: My Daughter Adopted "A Black," So I'm Not Racist. GQ reported: "[Arpaio] takes the stage and begins his routine, praising the anti-human-smuggling operation and downplaying the federal investigations of racial bias. 'My daughter has adopted children of various ethnicities,' he says in his defense. 'I got a black, a Mexican with down syndrome even. And yet I'm the racist, I'm the fascist, I'm the Hitler!'" [GQ, 10/9/09, emphasis added]

Sheriff Arpaio: "You Know What It Is? It's This Civil Rights, All That Crap." GQ reported:

[Arpaio] says he's writing a letter to the Mexican Consul General, who, the week before, had reprimanded Arpaio for his "inhumane and barbaric" treatment of Mexican inmates. (In early February, the sheriff had marched two hundred Mexicans clad in pink undershirts from a county jail to their own Tent City, one of the primitive outdoor encampments for which he is best known.)

"Why'd he have to blister me?" Arpaio mutters. "You know what it is? It's this civil rights, all that crap." Without looking up, he tells me to take a seat, then continues typing. The walls are crowded with framed newspaper and magazine articles detailing-and, generally, condemning-the sheriff's exploits, from a New York Times op-ed calling him "publicity-obsessed" to a caricature from the local paper depicting him as a porcine-faced sadist.

[GQ, 10/9/09, emphasis added]

...And Extreme Actions

Time: Sheriff Arpaio Famous For "Housing His Inmates In Tents" And "Forcing Prisoners To Wear Pink Underwear." According to Time, Sheriff Arpaio "gained national attention for housing his inmates in tents when jails reached capacity and forcing prisoners to wear pink underwear." Time also compiled a list of "Fast Facts" about Arpaio, including:

  • Began the nation's first female and juvenile chain gangs.
  • Claiming that pink is psychologically calming, has ordered Maricopa County inmates to wear pink underwear; Arpaio also uses pink handcuffs.
  • Boasts that he has eliminated almost every comfort from county jails, including basketball, coffee, salt, pepper and movies. Inmates' TV choices are limited to networks such as the Disney Channel and C-SPAN.
  • Says he provides the cheapest prisoner meals in the U.S., at just 15 each. He also reduced meals in the country's prisons to two a day, to save on labor costs. Inadequate meals were one reason a federal judge ruled against Arpaio and the county in 2008, finding that they violated prisoners' constitutional rights by depriving them of appropriate health care and housing them in unsanitary conditions. The judge noted that many inmates were forced to eat moldy bread and rotten fruit.
  • Created a tent city to house more inmates at lower cost. Installed a neon sign on a guard tower that reads "Vacancy."
  • In 2005, ordered nearly 700 maximum-security prisoners to march four blocks to a new jail facility wearing only pink underwear and flip-flops. "It's a security issue," Arpaio said.

[Time, 10/13/09]

Sheriff Arpaio Sued Over Alleged Racial Profiling. From the Washington Post:

A coalition of Hispanic and labor groups in Phoenix accused Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of racial profiling yesterday, alleging in a federal lawsuit that one of the nation's largest sheriff's departments is violating the civil rights of nonwhite U.S. citizens in seeking to arrest illegal immigrants. [...]

At issue are a series of sweeps, often conducted in Hispanic neighborhoods, in which sheriff's deputies and volunteers pulled over cars and stopped people on the street in a search for illegal immigrants and criminals. Critics allege the sweeps targeted individuals based on their physical appearance, such as dark skin or ethnicity.

One plaintiff, Manuel Nieto Jr., a U.S. citizen, alleged that he was unlawfully handcuffed in front of customers and neighbors by his family's auto repair shop after police heard him listening to music in Spanish.

"It's not a crime to be Latino or listen to a Spanish-language radio station but you wouldn't know that by the way Sheriff Joe and his posse treat people," Nieto said.

[Washington Post, 8/17/08, emphasis added]

Sheriff Arpaio's Deputies Use "Clothes" And "Speech" As Probable Cause. In October 2009, Arpaio had the following exchange with former CNN anchor Rick Sanchez:

SANCHEZ: You just said you detain people who haven't committed a crime - how do you prove they they're not illegal?

ARPAIO: It has to do with their conduct, what type of clothes they're wearing, their speech, they admit it, they may have phony IDs. A lot of variables are involved.

SANCHEZ: You judge people and arrest them based on their speech and the clothes they're wearing sir?

ARPAIO: No, when they're in the vehicle with someone who has committed a crime. We have the right to talk to those people. When they admit that they are here illegally we take action...the federal law specifies the speech, the clothes, the environment, the erratic behavior. It's right in the law.

[CNN via Wonk Room, 10/8/09, emphasis added]