New York Times
By Fernanda Santos
May 23, 2017
FOUNTAIN HILLS, Ariz. — Joe Arpaio, the onetime sheriff in this part of the West, still talks about his former job, the one he was unceremoniously ousted from last fall, in the present tense.
Pushed into retirement by voters who tired of his colorful ways, Mr. Arpaio has gone from being a public official working 14-hour days to a civilian with a mostly empty calendar.
His flip phone hardly rings. He has no driver to shuttle him around or assistants to cater to him. He never had time to develop a hobby, so he has to learn to find pleasure in “little things” — steering his red Cadillac around town, or searching for his name on Google.
“I average six Googles a day,” he said, referring to the number of new mentions of him when he runs his name through Google. That is a far cry from the attention heaped on him during his 24 years in office, when he was nicknamed “America’s toughest sheriff,” and relished acting the part.
Thumbing his nose at rules and political correctness, he rolled out a fiery campaign against undocumented immigrants that made him an icon among Republican voters, a darling of right-wing news media and the target of a damaging racial-profiling lawsuit.
He endorsed Donald J. Trump back when Mr. Trump’s candidacy seemed like the longest of long shots. They were natural allies, flamboyant in ideas and style, and ardent proponents of the same unforgiving approach to illegal immigration.
Mr. Trump ascended to the White House just as Mr. Arpaio’s career unraveled. After years of being his target, Latinos in Maricopa County organized against their sheriff, registering a record number of new voters and casting more ballots than ever before in the last election. Fiscal conservatives deserted him, weary of the rising costs of his legal bills.
Journalists from around the world used to fly in to interview Mr. Arpaio. By his own tally, which he has typewritten on loose sheets of paper, he has been profiled in more than 4,000 national and foreign newspapers, magazines and TV news programs. There was a time when it almost did not matter what other elected officials said or did about immigration. His was the only voice that counted.
These days, the positions he embraces — more agents on the border, more power to local police agencies to enforce federal immigration law — are emanating from the Oval Office. Mr. Arpaio is on the sidelines, alone but for a tight circle of friends as he waits to go on trial next month on charges he defied a federal judge’s order to stop singling out Latinos for traffic stops.
“I get a few phone calls — where is everybody?” Mr. Arpaio said resentfully one recent Friday, dressed in a black suit, a silver pin of a Glock pistol on his tie.
He talked for three hours about the job he used to have, attributing his ouster to President Barack Obama, as well as the federal judge who charged him with criminal contempt of court three weeks before the general election, and the voters who turned their backs on him.
“I’ll tell you what’s sad,” he said. “You know, you would think some politicians — I don’t even want to talk which ones, I won’t say who, maybe county officials — you would think they would say something that I did nice in 24 years. I think I did something nice in 24 years.”
Mr. Arpaio’s entry into civilian life after decades in law enforcement — he began his career in 1954, as a police officer in Washington — was the end of an era in Arizona, whose tough anti-immigrant law earned it a reputation as a caldron of intolerance.
The state has worked hard to shake off its tainted image. Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, barely mentions the words “illegal immigration” in public pronouncements these days, and when he talks about the border, he focuses more on the illegal drugs coming across than the people. There is also a transformation underway in the Republican-led State Legislature, which has been infused with a new crop of Democratic lawmakers whose introduction to politics happened through activism against Mr. Arpaio.
One of them is State Representative Tony Navarrete, a son of Mexican immigrants who represents West Phoenix, the Latino redoubt where he grew up. In an interview, he recalled the sheriff’s deputies he used to see “going down my street, raiding homes in my neighborhood.”
“That fueled my anger,” said Mr. Navarrete, 31. “But I couldn’t be angry. I really needed to find a way to build power and to make change.”
At the Maricopa County sheriff’s office in Phoenix, Mr. Arpaio’s successor, Paul Penzone, is working to redefine the role of the agency, which for so long revolved around the personality of the man in charge.
“There was an expectation by the media that this office was really a story generator,” said Mr. Penzone, a former Phoenix police sergeant. There were also, he said, “a lot of men and women in this organization who came to work believing it was their job to identify methods to promote the former sheriff.”
Mr. Penzone has been careful not to give too many interviews, judicious about the places he visits and conscious of the inevitability that everything he does will be used as a point of comparison with Mr. Arpaio.
When he announced the closing of the outdoor jail known as Tent City, where Mr. Arpaio forced men to wear pink underwear, Mr. Penzone declared, “The circus has ended.” While Mr. Arpaio bragged about the low cost of the two meatless meals served to inmates each day, Mr. Penzone said the jail’s “nonsense and ineffective practices” were costing taxpayers $4.5 million a year.
He has not revived the mugshot-of-the-day contest that Mr. Arpaio started in 2011 as a way to bring more traffic to the sheriff’s office website. He also stopped holding undocumented immigrants beyond their court-ordered release date as a favor to federal immigration agents. (The agents are still allowed to check the citizenship status of everyone who is booked in county jails, though.)
During Mr. Arpaio’s time, a lot of the decisions about where to stage crime-reduction patrols relied on tips from his volunteer posse, anonymous callers or even members of motorcycle gangs. The patrols became a central point of the racial-profiling lawsuit against Mr. Arpaio and his deputies.
Mr. Penzone said he still has a long way to go to make amends. Recently, during a visit to the Irene Lopez School in South Phoenix, a predominantly Latino area that was the target of many of Mr. Arpaio’s operations, elementary-school children paraded before him dressed like the professionals they wished to be when they grew up.
“Not a single kid wanted to be in law enforcement,” Mr. Penzone said.
Mr. Arpaio swatted his hands at the notion that he had been a destructive force, or that his years in office had caused any type of rift.
“I know my people did nothing wrong. I did not,” he said. “I’m more popular than ever.”
He noted an interesting twist in the criminal case against him: It was started by Mr. Obama’s Justice Department, but will be decided by Mr. Trump’s. If convicted of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor, Mr. Arpaio could spend six months in jail.
Follow Fernanda Santos @fernandanyt on Twitter.
For more information, go to: www.beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com