Commentary: Arpaio's shameful example of law enforcement

The Kansas City StarFebruary 11, 2010 

At the risk of receiving a stinky pizza, we have to explore Kansas City's connection to the doings of the self-billed "America's toughest sheriff" down in Arizona.

Anchovy pizza is what Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio sends to an Arizona newspaper columnist who has crossed him in print. But that hardly ranks as his most bizarre behavior.

Kansas voters deserve to know how closely aligned wanna-be Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was to Arpaio this week.

Arpaio is the one who puts prisoners in outdoor tents, pink boxers and black and white striped uniforms and chain gangs. Yes, that guy. Arpaio even had his own reality TV show, because no one could make this stuff up.

When folks question his tactics, Arpaio bites back. He has filed a federal racketeering lawsuit against county officials. When the U.S. Justice Department found Arpaio refused to cooperate, the sheriff called for an investigation of the investigators. A federal grand jury is looking into his retaliatory methods.

In October, the Department of Homeland Security stripped Arpaio of federal authorization to enforce immigration laws. Arpaio has been accused of profiling, sweeping heavily Hispanic neighborhoods with the help of volunteer "posse" members to round up whomever they can on whatever violations are found. The people/prey are then queried to find out who might be in the country illegally.

So what was Kobach doing standing beside Arpaio at a press conference this week as the sheriff basically gave the bird to federal authorities?

Standing up for Arpaio's legal right to be a shameful example of law enforcement.

On Monday, Arpaio reasserted that he’ll continue doing things his way, despite Homeland Security's excluding him from the program that trained about 100 of his deputies.

Arpaio says state laws still give him ample leeway, and Kobach, a UMKC constitutional law professor, concurred. He gave Phoenix TV stations a lesson in Arpaio's "inherent arrest authority." He also will be giving lessons in immigration law to nearly 900 county deputies.

The Kansas secretary of state race became more intriguing this week with the announced resignation of the current secretary.

Kansas voters ought to ask themselves why someone seeking such an influential Kansas office would link with this ticking time bomb of a sheriff.

Arpaio enjoys a near cult-like following. Boorish antics and highly questionable tactics are brushed aside. The man can do no wrong in many people’s eyes as long as he rounds up illegal immigrants.

That makes for good theater, colorful copy for writers and pundits, but it’s not the way to enforce something as important as federal immigration.

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