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It's time for Sheriff Joe Arpaio to go

Maricopa County deserves a sheriff who abides by the law and promotes justice

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio greets supporters before a rally in the Phoenix Convention Center, in Phoenix, Arizona, for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio greets supporters before a rally in the Phoenix Convention Center, in Phoenix, Arizona, for Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016.

The job of a sheriff is to uphold the law justly and equally. When a sheriff himself breaks the law, discriminates against broad cross-sections of people and governs through hate and fear, he fails the public he swore to protect.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has failed the residents of Maricopa County. This election, ASU students can make a difference in ensuring he can do so no longer.

Arpaio’s recent charge of criminal contempt of court highlights the sheriff’s disregard of law and his discriminatory record against Latinos in Arizona. This blatant disregard has a high human cost, as well as a high monetary cost. Not only has Arpaio’s record of racial profiling undermined the principles of equality under law and human dignity, but Arpaio’s defense has also cost Maricopa County taxpayers $48 million thus far, a price tag expected next summer to reach $72 million.

Arpaio has lied to taxpayers and to the court system, running an operation that obfuscates truth and perpetuates injustice. Public organizations, especially law enforcement organizations, have a duty to be transparent and their leaders have an obligation to be accountable.

The self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America has systematically and blatantly violated the U.S. Constitution. Any American who believes in the sanctity of the Constitution and the importance of rule of law should be appalled that Arpaio is still in office.

Safe communities are unified communities. Yet rather than uniting the people he promised to serve, Arpaio has divided them by hate and fear.

In one prominent symbol of his divisiveness, Arpaio refuses to acknowledge that President Barack Obama was born in the U.S. This insistence, complete with its obvious racial undertones, is outlandish and offensive.

Arpaio’s county jail system features extremely inhumane and degrading conditions. In his infamous Tent City, he forces pink underwear on his inmates and boasts about their suffering in the 120 degree heat. Arpaio is no stranger to legal action regarding these conditions, either. For example, one complaint filed by the Department of Justice alleged he denied Latina inmates access to feminine sanitary products, forcing them to sleep in menstrual blood.

It should be clear that Arpaio is not the right sheriff for Maricopa County. There are approximately two million registered voters in Maricopa County, and the power to end the injustice perpetrated by Arpaio lies in their hands. ASU students are directly affected by the actions of our county sheriff, and we can play a vital role in electing a sheriff that will represent us.

Voters do have another candidate for sheriff to choose from: Paul Penzone, a former police officer and law enforcement expert with endorsements from organizations such as the Phoenix Police Lieutenants and Sergeants Association and the National Latino Peace Officers Association.

“This race is extremely critical,” said Austin Marshall, president of the ASU Young Democrats. “Paul Penzone is doing really well in polls, which is exciting, and he has a lot of bipartisan backing from the community.”

On the other hand, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio has wasted millions of dollars in taxpayer resources, he has contributed to the breaking down of relations between various communities in Phoenix and Maricopa County and law enforcement, and he has unfairly targeted the Latino community,” Marshall continued.

In the light of such a high-profile presidential race, it can be easy to forget about the names that appear farther down the ballot. But on Nov. 8, we simply cannot afford to ignore the sheriff’s election.

As Marshall noted, the down ballot races, such as those for sheriff, county recorder and state representative, often have a larger impact on individuals’ lives than the presidential race that appears at the top of the ticket.

Accountability and integrity are values that need to be restored to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, and they are values that ASU voters have the ability to promote. On Tuesday, cast a ballot for justice. 

Reach the columnist at or follow  @MiaAArmstrong on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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