In last Tuesday’s Reno Gazette-Journal, Anjeannette Damon wrote an article detailing newly elected Washoe County Sheriff Chuck Allen’s recent trip to Arizona, which included a meeting with the notorious Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Allen stated, “I didn’t want that trip to imply anything on what my administration will be like…”
Then why take the meeting, Sheriff Allen?
I lived in Maricopa County for five years and can attest that the only thing Arpaio should be teaching our next generation of law enforcement is what not to do. Arpaio’s latest fiasco involves a potential contempt of court charge due to his failure to comply with a court order demanding he stop racially profiling Latinos. Sheriff Arpaio has been dragging his feet, citing an estimate that the order will cost taxpayers $14 million in “re-training costs.”
Yet the “Arpaio Tax” includes more than just the cost of retraining staff to disregard years of institutional bigotry. The reason it’s so high is that ever so often, a prisoner serving time for a gross misdemeanor inside a Maricopa jail will die from the Sheriff’s imposition of draconian brutality, prompting an inevitable multi-million dollar lawsuit that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will almost certainly be forced to settle.
Furthermore, Sheriff Arpaio has a habit of misallocating resources, ignoring real problems and opting for political grandstanding instead. He deployed hundreds of officers, dozens of vehicles and even a helicopter to Guadalupe, a town of just over 5,000 residents, mostly Latinos and Yaqui whose residence in the area predates the existence of the United States. He warned local officials of his plan just hours before beginning the sweep, promising it was merely a “crime suppression” effort and not an immigration sweep. A Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office press release promptly contradicted his assertions.
Guadalupe Mayor Jimenez was able to negotiate a cultural sensitivity training in the MCSO’s new contract. She also won the ability to remove rogue deputies through a council vote. For many years, Sheriff Arpaio had used Guadalupe as a dumping ground for problematic deputies. It’s no wonder that confidence in the Sheriff’s office remains low among Guadalupe residents.
The bottom line is that when facing a tough election last year, Chuck Allen promised to be a community-oriented sheriff, implying he would not pursue ‘Arpaioesque’ tactics. Now elected, he owes Washoe County residents at the very least an explanation of what “advice” he received during his visit to Sheriff Arpaio – and at the most, a promise not to succumb to Arpaio’s strategies and force Washoe taxpayers to foot the bill for his transgressions.