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Scariest Cop: Joe Arpaio / Sheriff, Maricopa County, AZ
by Charles M. Young
A huge swath of Arizona that includes Phoenix, Tempe and Scottsdale, Maricopa County attracts journalists and politicians from around the world, all hoping to learn penal reform theory from Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who opens his gates to everyone except reporters known to be critical. He brags on the department website that he has "nothing to hide and nothing to fear," and except for the occasional prisoner who gets beaten to death (R.I.P. Scott Norberg), he probably doesn't have anything to hide or to fear.
Most of the press considers him a colorful character who dresses his inmates in pink underwear, feeds them $.45 meals and houses them in tents where the temperature can exceed 140 degrees and the inmates have to breath the stench from a nearby dump and animal crematorium. A true pioneer of women's liberation, he has instituted chain gangs for women as well as men. Both sexes must listen to patriotic songs, and recordings of Arpaio reading self-help books throughout the day.
Although he forbids raunchy magazines (as well as coffee, cigarettes, Kool-Aid and hot meals), his recent jailcam experiment, live Web broadcasts of inmate life including toilet sessions, was a huge hit, and was quickly linked to by porn sites around the world. When inmates sued for invasion of privacy, Arpaio had to shut it down, but it was a rare setback for "America's Toughest Sheriff," as he likes to bill himself. Under a novel interpretation of the state's smuggling law, his most recent stunt is arresting illegal immigrants and giving them the pink-underwear-and-patriotic-song treatment. Having been elected four times by America's scariest voters, Arpaio can (and does) intimidate anyone who objects to his Guantanamo of the Sonora. Why waste cruel and unusual punishment on mere Islamofascists when we've got all these criminals on the border and a shredded Bill of Rights? Welcome to the future of law enforcement.