Arizona taxpayers paid out roughly the equivalent of a single-family, detached home in Phoenix to protect Arizona’s most notorious, anti-immigration law enforcement official around the clock. Security detail for Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio worked anywhere between 120 to 600 hours each month to investigate death threats against the sheriff, to stand guard at public appearances, and to work off-hours.
An internal investigation found that Arpaio’s security detail cost more than $120,000 between June 2012 and June 2013. One deputy reportedly made more than $24,000 in overtime earnings last year. In May, around the time that U.S. District Judge Murray Snow found Arpaio’s department guilty of rampant racial profiling, his security detail worked 600 overtime hours.
The overtime hours have risen in part because while the overall number of threats have decreased, the severity of the threats have increased. In the first eight months of 2013, there have been three suspects charged for making threats against Arpaio’s life and four bomb threats against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Arpaio has become one of the most vocal figures in the anti-immigration movement. Last week, a judge ordered the appointment of a monitor to ensure Arpaio and his officers were not violating constitutional rights and targeting Latinos.
Arpaio is responsible for Maricopa County’s Tent City, his outdoor detention center that he once joked is like a “concentration camp.” His immigration raids are indiscriminate to age and medical condition, arresting children as young as 6 and pregnant women. Arpaio also promised to issue automatic weapons to his deputies to catch “illegal aliens attempting to escape.”
Given his public profile, Arpaio believes that some of the death threats are spurred by his anti-immigration stance. Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Detective Brian Mackiewicz said, “The issue of illegal immigration seems to be the common thread among our most recent investigations involving threats against Sheriff Arpaio.”
In one statement, Arpaio alleges that one threat came from a Mexican mafia member who was angry over his family’s deportation. Arrest warrants were also issued for two other men who made death threats because of the “illegal immigration rhetoric surrounding Arpaio.”
While these death threats may be legitimate, Arpaio was caught framing a man for a staged murder plot against the sheriff in 1999. According to the Phoenix New Times, taxpayers shelled out $1.1 million after a jury found that Arpaio’s officers had entrapped Saville into buying bomb parts.