Putting his recent presidential pardon to good use, Joe Arpaio announced Sunday night that he intends to run for sheriff of Maricopa County, a seat he held from 1993 to 2017.
Since losing the 2016 sheriff’s race by a little over 11 percent, the 87-year-old has remained quite active. In July 2017, Arpaio was found guilty of criminal contempt of court by refusing to end racial profiling practices against Latinos while in office. His sentencing was expected for October of that year, before he was pardoned by President Trump in August, in part because he “kept Arizona safe!” The next year, Arpaio ran for Senate, losing in the primary with a stable 19 percent of the vote.
Now, he hopes to return to the seat that brought him national infamy — and cost Phoenix-area taxpayers over $140 million in court fees — announcing his candidacy on a date important to him: August 25 is both the day Trump pardoned him in 2017 and his wife Ava’s birthday.
As sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, Arpaio habitually violated the rights of his constituents. As New York’s Eric Levitz notes:
During his decades-long tenure as sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, Arpaio presided over (what he himself called) a “concentration camp,” where low-level offenders and undocumented immigrants were subjected to daily cruel and unusual punishments. In Tent City, men and women who’d been convicted of — or, in most cases, merely charged with — crimes like drug use, shoplifting, and working with false documents were forced to live outdoors, year-round. In the summer, they sweated through 130-degree temperatures; in winter, they shivered through frigid nights, barred, by rule, from wearing any form of jacket or coat; when it rained, water poured through holes in the tents, soaking them in their beds. Arpaio forced his prisoners to march in pink underwear, work in chain gangs, shower in boiling-hot water, and eat rotten food (the sheriff boasted about this last point).
Arpaio’s reign of terror extended beyond his prison’s gates. His officers subjected Latino Arizonans — citizens and noncitizens alike — to routine harassment and abuse. For Arpaio’s forces, “racial profiling” could involve slamming a pregnant Latina citizen into a car three times, stomach first, for refusing to follow arbitrary orders; while being “tough on crime” could mean forcing an innocent suspect’s dog back into a burning house, and then leaving the canine’s corpse to rot for days in 100-degree heat.
Arpaio’s lawlessness may have reached a peak of unhinged sociopathy in 1999, when, in a bid to boost his reelection hopes, he oversaw a plot to blackmail a man into trying to assassinate him. That man spent four years in jail before a jury ruled that he had been a victim of entrapment.
At least 157 prisoners, most of them Tent City detainees, died during Arpaio’s tenure; a quarter of those deaths were suicides. In his announcement, Arpaio promised to “reopen Tent City Jail and bring back his popular jail policies,” adding “Watch out world! We are back!”