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OPINIONS: Sheriff Arpaio’s departure signals progress for Phoenix

Photo Courtesy of Tribune News Service | Former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks on the last day of the Republican National Convention on July 21, 2016, at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland.

By Matthew Zacher ’18

It is difficult not to notice the the “Adios Arpaio” bumper sticker stamped on the door of several teachers’ classroom doors and students’ iPads.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a Republican, was elected as Maricopa County Sheriff in 1993 and served in that role for 24 years.

Democratic challenger Paul Penzone defeated Arpaio in the Nov. 8 general election, even as Donald Trump carried the county by 45,000 votes.

Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio was labeled “America’s toughest sheriff,” as he became famous for dressing inmates in pink and feeding them green bologna.

While some would argue that Arpaio’s style, while at times excessive, reduced crime rates, reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Department of Public Safety show that violent crime has largely remained the same throughout his tenure.

The former sheriff made a point of halting illegal immigration and has been sued by the American Civil Liberties Union for racial profiling.

Cases like this have cost $13 million to taxpayers in 2016 alone, according to azcentral.com. Lawsuits have cost taxpayers $41 million over the previous eight years.

To a Republican like Arpaio, a public servant single handedly costing taxpayers that much money due to absurd discrimination cases should be deemed egregious.

So egregious that, in fact, Phoenicians made two efforts to recall the sheriff in 2007 and 2013 but came up short.

While in office, Arpaio promoted an almost wild west image of Phoenix.

Many of his inmates lived in what was called “Tent City,” a jail that consisted of outdoor tents in a yard. In the summer months, temperatures inside the tents reached as high as 145 degrees.

Inmates complained of fans not functioning and shoes melting in the sweltering Phoenix heat. These conditions are inhumane and certainly not a productive means of delivering justice.

In addition, Arpaio instituted chain gangs to conduct “volunteer” work around the county. The word “volunteer” implies freedom, and, by putting them in chains, Arpaio stripped these inmates of their liberty and dignity.

Being tough on criminals is not a partisan issue. Nor is responsibly executing a position of authority and treating people with dignity.

Practices like these paint Phoenix in an ignorant light and diminish the good progress happening in our communities.

The aforementioned FBI and DPS data prove that Arpaio’s ludicrous and inhumane practices did nothing but tarnish his county’s reputation.

After 24 years, Phoenix is finally saying adios to Sheriff Joe and simultaneously ensuring responsibility for county taxpayers.