Maricopa County Allegedly Fails to Investigate Sexual Assault Cases

I’m going to go ahead and assume that by now, most of you recognize the name Sheriff Joseph Arpaio.  You know, the sheriff of Maricopa county — “America’s Toughest Sheriff” — who is famous for prisoner abuse, particularly against undocumented immigrants, has a long list of inmate deaths and injuries, and is currently under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department?

Well, Arpaio is indeed really, really “tough” . . . unless we’re talking about sexual assault, of course.  Allegations have recently been made that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office isn’t properly investigating sexual assault cases:

The Goldwater Institute could not say how many cases other law enforcement agencies clear by exception- one of the main reasons the institute is pushing for legislation that would require investigators to designate that data.

The Sheriff’s Office appears to be the worst offender, Bolick said, because the sheriff’s clearance rate on cases is higher than most other agencies.

Sheriff’s officials point to those statistics as evidence of quality police work, but Bolick said it could easily be the result of clearing too many cases through exception instead of arrest.

“We can’t say, no one can say, what the reality of the situation is,” he said.

In 2008, the Sheriff’s Office reported to county officials that about 1,300 of 9,500 cases investigated, or about 14 percent, were cleared with arrests. The same report shows that detectives cleared a total of about 7,200 cases. That would mean a large majority of cleared cases were from one of several other ways, including the case was unfounded or was given an “exceptional clearance.”

The FBI’s standards for clearing cases through exception state that the investigation should have: established the identity of a suspect; gathered enough information to support an arrest, charge and review from prosecutors; determined the exact location of the suspect; and cited a reason outside investigators control that would prevent arrest and prosecution.

In another article, Bolick says that one such reason that could prevent arrest and prosecution is “because the suspect is dead or is currently incarcerated and can not be extradited.”  Surely, given all of the standards above, I imagine that you would be just as eager as I am to see how exactly they managed to clear about 75% of their cases through such means.  Especially when they have documented instances where such a method of clearing the case was seemingly incredibly improper.

It’s also worth noting that, confusingly enough, the Goldwater Institute is not a civil liberties group or victim’s advocacy organization.  They’re a conservative think tank.  Which means I would normally ignore whatever they have to say.  So I’m left here scratching my head at the idea that “tough on crime,” anti-immigrants conservatives who generally give Arpaio hero-like status would be going after his office with such allegations.  It really makes me wonder just how bad exactly things are.  Because while I may simply be unimaginative, if there’s an ulterior motive out there, I’m not seeing it at the moment.

But I do know that there is very little I put past Joe Arpaio and his office.  And I know that Arpaio actually cares very little about crime, and cares a whole lot more about racist means of law enforcement and grandstanding for the media.  So would I be surprised to learn that his “toughness” only extends to locking up and abusing immigrants who just needed a job, and falls short on prosecuting rapists?  No.  Rather, I’d expect it.

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8 comments for “Maricopa County Allegedly Fails to Investigate Sexual Assault Cases

  1. Nx
    May 28, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    minor correction, unrelated to the body of your post: A quick glance at the Goldwater Institute’s website makes them seem to me to be legally libertarian. That’s different from legally conservative, and legal libertarians are sometimes quite focused on the way in which purportedly helpful government systematically harms women and minorities. (E.g., Institute for Justice’s work against governments being able to easily condemn property: there are good reasons to oppose their work, but it’s really true that condemning neighborhoods as blighted has been a common tactic for moving poor African-Americans wholesale out of their neighborhoods for white folks to take them over.)

    The point being: The Goldwater Institute may well be reliable on this point. I don’t know anyone there, but I would not be at all surprised if they loathe Arpaio.

  2. May 28, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    I wish this surprised me, but dismissing most reports of rape fits in perfectly with the judgmental way Sheriff Joseph Arpaio operates. What it doesn’t indicate is quality police work from any perspective other than a rapist’s.

    Based on Arpaio’s history stereotypical “real” rape cases such as stranger attacks by Hispanic men would be those most likely be investigated aggressively.

  3. May 28, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    The Goldwater Institute issued an initial report in December 2008, “Mission Unaccomplished: The Misplaced Priorities of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office,” blasting the MCSO for extravagant spending and inefficiency in government, something the Institute does have great interest in:

    The article with Abigail Brown’s story in it is a followup. They didn’t specifically target botched rape investigations at all, this apparently just fell into their laps.

  4. Nx
    May 28, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Gah, I can’t believe I’m defending a libertarian legal organization,* but here it goes: Looking at the press release, seems to me that their argument about spending and inefficiency is an economistic way of saying that by focusing on press-loving, bigoted, anti-immigrant tactics, the sheriffs office has been doing a bad job at the things it’s supposed to do (such as investigate rapes). They are already defining things like persecuting “illegal immigrants” (their words, not mine) as OUTSIDE the “core missions” of law enforcement, which is as it should be IMO. They also criticize the office for “costly lawsuits for excessive use of force and inadequate medical facilities.” Again, those are the lawsuits people on our side have been bringing. The Goldwater Institute is making a political argument to the taxpayer and the legislature that EVEN IF they like Joe Arpaio, the stunts he pulls are not themselves law enforcement, and the people of Phoenix/Arizona can’t afford them anyway. If the Goldwater Institute is anything like the Institute for Justice (a DC libertarian outfit, which this Clint Bollick was involved in), they ALWAYS couple their legal-economic arguments (which, mind you, I think are largely wrong and, politically/morally wrong in a deeper sense; I really am just defending the one thing I respect about groups of this kind) with a racial or gender justice issue.

    So I don’t think it’s entirely fair to say this “apparently just fell into their laps.” My bet is that they went looking for a situation like this — to highlight it/publicize it — precisely because they think the Joe Arpaio’s of the world use state power for bad ends, and those ends will be disproportionately felt by women and minorities.

    Now, their general take is that concentrations of state power beget Joe Arpaios, so we should drastically limit government. But that doesn’t make their focus on Joe Arpaio’s failure to properly deal with case unreliable or accidental. It really is part of who they are (if, again, they’re like the libertarians of my acquaintance).

    *: I know about them from OPPOSING them.

  5. Nx
    May 28, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    Also: unless others are ok with carrying on this conversation about the Goldwater Institute, I propose shelving it. I think my response could start a threadjack into another issue entirely, which isn’t appropriate, and I don’t want to do it.

  6. preying mantis
    May 29, 2009 at 6:33 am

    “So would I be surprised to learn that his “toughness” only extends to locking up and abusing immigrants who just needed a job, and falls short on prosecuting rapists?”

    Abyss2hope’s comment sounds about right. I’m sure he’s all about prosecuting a certain kind of rapist or the assailant(s) of a certain kind of victim. It probably plays out in the same way with domestic violence cases.

  7. William
    May 31, 2009 at 11:27 am

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that the Goldwater Institute is on this. Libertarians in this country have been moving left for awhile, and the younger generation is far more focused on civil libertarian issues than economic ones. More than that, the libertarians have been trying to find a way to bring down Arpaio for years because he’s a symbol of everything they hate: a powerful, largely unaccountable, terrifying abusive, ineffective government official. The fact that he’s a drug warrior and aggressively anti-immigration just makes him more of a monster in the scene.

    Honestly, I think people on the left might want to be a little more open to at least a discourse and some case-by-case alliances with the libertarians. Its unlikely that the two sides will ever agree on monetary policy, but they’d make a hell of a team on issues of government abuse and injustice.

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