Retired law enforcement officials back efforts to recall Ariz. sheriff Arpaio
PHOENIX — Several retired law enforcement officials have joined the recall effort against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, criticizing him for using what they consider scare tactics to raise money to fight the recall.
Respect Arizona is in the process of gathering signatures for a vote to oust the six-term Republican sheriff, who became a national icon in the illegal-immigration enforcement movement during the past decade.
The group obtained a letter — signed by Arpaio and paid for by the Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio campaign — that was emailed to conservative supporters soliciting donations to help fight the recall. In the letter, Arpaio said the county's public safety was at stake.
Without Arpaio, those who would be in danger include single mothers whose children face “a rampant drug culture,” a hypothetical mother of a child killed by a drug dealer not kept in jail after an Arpaio ouster and small-business owners whose livelihoods would be threatened by illegal immigrants taking control of their neighborhoods, according to the letter.
Respect Arizona released statements from two retired Phoenix police officials, former Chief Jack Harris and former Assistant Police Chief Bill Louis, accusing Arpaio of misleading supporters by taking sole credit for community safety. The former U.S. attorney for Arizona, Paul Charlton, and former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard also were quoted in the group's statements.
“Arizona law enforcement will continue to fight crime and ensure public safety long after Mr. Arpaio leaves office,” Harris said in his statement.
Two other retired law enforcement officers and former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon echoed those sentiments in person. In a news conference on Wednesday, they called Arpaio's fundraising letter disingenuous.
“Elected officials come and go, and the state moves on,” Gordon said. Arpaio was elected Maricopa County sheriff in 1992 and was re-elected to his sixth term last year with 51.5 percent of the vote, 7.5 percentage points more than his Democratic opponent but 3.7 percentage points less than his 2008 win.
Arpaio's camp defended the statements in his letter.
Chad Willems, manager for the Elect Sheriff Joe Arpaio campaign, said there “would most certainly be consequences negatively impacting law enforcement” if Arpaio were recalled. Fewer illegal immigrants would be apprehended or turned over for deportation, and citizens would be less safe because crimes associated with illegal immigration could increase, he claimed.
“If it doesn't matter who the elected official is, then why do they want to remove Arpaio from office? They want him out of office precisely because of the way he runs his office, specifically as it relates to enforcing illegal immigration laws,” Willems said in an email to The Arizona Republic.