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Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Sheriff Joe a hypocrite? Say it ain't so!

In what can only be viewed as a clear victory against Maricopa County's megalomaniacal and power-mad Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the US Supreme Court today refused to hear an appeal of a 9th District Court ruling that Joe cannot broadcast live video of inmates being booked at county jail. The lawsuit was brought by the prison reform group Middle Ground.

According to the Arizona Republic today:
Maricopa County inmates have won a settlement with Sheriff Joe Arpaio over his live Internet broadcasts that showed prisoners being booked, photographed and, in some cases, using a toilet at the county jail.

The Sheriff's Office agreed Monday to pay the legal fees for the inmates, plus $500 in damages to each of the 11 who remain in the case that was filed five years ago in U.S. District Court. Arpaio also agreed to accept the court order blocking the so-called jailcam.
An estimated 8000 prisoners a month passed through the system and Middle Ground had initially sought $50,000 for each of the more than 50,000 inmates that had appeared on Joe's sick jail reality show, an astounding figure which would have probably bankrupted our local petty tyrant once and for all, had it succeeded - despite his sponge-like tendency to suck up large fines in the past. The recent removal of the county jails infamously murderous restraint chairs shows that even Sheriff Joe has limits to his ability to force the county to absorb the costs of his brutality (the latest of a string of successful lawsuits related to the restraint chairs cost Maricopa County $9 million in March).

Joe had argued that the jail cams were a deterrent to future crime, but the court rejected that self-serving argument from Arizona's most self-promoting police officer, noting that the inmates filmed in booking had not been convicted of any crime, thus making the deterrent argument pretty empty.

Still undeterred and in denial of reality, Joe says that since the injunction doesn't forbid him from webcasting the images of convicted inmates he is "going to look into" shifting the cameras to covering convicted prisoners serving time. The last time Joe had the cameras up, porn and white power websites linked to the feeds.

In a side note, the lawyers will get ten times more in fees than the inmates will get in damages.

In other news, demonstrating one of his many hypocrisies, our beloved Sheriff Joe today denied any knowledge of a deal that exempts his deputies from citations for speeding in the section of the 101 in the North Valley now patrolled by speed cameras. In an earlier irony, Joe had come out against the installation of the cameras last Spring. In what now looks like a curious reversal, Joe argued at the time that
“The traditional law enforcement method to enforce the law and protect the public dictates personal contact by the officer,” Arpaio wrote.

“In my 40–plus years of law enforcement, the use of probable cause to make a stop and to further investigate circumstances involved in an arrest or violation has been and still is the most effective way to investigate and further promote safety.”
In what seemed like a strange libertarian moment in a decidedly authoritarian career, Joe even argued that the plan to install the cameras was just a money-making scheme on the part of the already wealthy city of Scottsdale.

However, the East Valley Tribune reported today that,
...Scottsdale police officials said they made a deal to ignore potential speeding tickets from sheriff’s office and DPS vehicles. Though police are legally allowed to speed in certain situations, the deal allowed officers who may not have been justified in speeding to escape citations or reprimands.

The July article included 16 pictures of emergency vehicles — five from the sheriff’s office and seven from DPS — caught going between 100 mph and 117 mph. Five did not appear to have their emergency lights on. The sheriff’s office and DPS have not replied to a request made in June for documentation of the officers’ actions around the time of the photos.
After the Tribune reported the exemption, Scottsdale resumed sending out notices to offending agencies. However, in the preceding months, the Tribune reports that
One thing is clear: Scottsdale did not send most, if not all, of the notices generated by speeding DPS and sheriff’s office vehicles. In addition to the 16 vehicles caught going 100 mph or more, the system also caught 177 other emergency vehicles from Jan. 22 to the end of June traveling between 76 mph and 99 mph.
In a bizarre twist, Arpaio denied all reports of a deal, saying, “The issue is credibility . . . there was no deal made with Scottsdale or with anyone else. They’re never going to come up with any proof we made a deal.” Joe's sudden interest in the burden of proof (which didn't concern him in the case of the jail cameras) is amusing to say the least, but Scottsdale cops beg to differ:
Last week, Scottsdale Police Chief Alan Rodbell and department spokesman Sgt. Mark Clark repeated that as far as they’re concerned, DPS and sheriff ’s office personnel were knowledgeable about the deal. But they couldn’t provide any evidence that connected the agencies to the decision to ignore citation notices.

“The whole process was a series of meetings and at some point it was a conversation where the sheriff’s office came into the picture,” Clark said in an interview last week. “There were communications that went on at the meetings. Obviously, some of these were informal meetings, some of them were phone calls. So I don’t know if there are records available.”
Further, it was revealed that Redflex, the company that operated the speeding cameras for Scottsdale, does not record the license plates of speeding emergency vehicles, as it does for regular citizens.
Jake Jacobsen, president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Association, said if the officers photographed were going 20 mph or more over the speed limit, that constitutes criminal speeding.

Jacobsen said he wouldn’t say what Scottsdale did was “bad,” because “I don’t have a horse in this race.”

However, if Scottsdale assumed all law enforcement vehicles were justified to speed on Loop 101, “that’s quite a leap of faith.”
Apparently, that's just the kind of hypocritical leap of faith that Sheriff Joe is willing to take - with his officers, but not with his inmates.

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