This may see obvious to those of you in the rest of the country, but there are real problems with treating a man uniquely allowed to use force against the citizenry like a rock star. And that is how certain segments of the local population treat Sheriff Joe Arpaio. As one abuse of power after another is revealed, his supporters respond "Isn't he so colorful, just like an old-time western sheriff."
For the rest of us his schtick gets old. The county has spent millions defending lawsuit after lawsuit against him. The INS has stripped him of his power to track down illegal immigrants, but he still ventures out on sweeps to arrest folks for driving while Mexican, arresting more people of Mexican decent than I though even existed in certain neighborhoods. He has arrested reporters who criticized him, and arrested people who applauded a speaker who criticized him. He even launched a mini-coup attempt against the County which employs him, invading the County offices and taking over a computer system that contained emails he had been unable to subpoena. In the latter case, the County had to seek a restraining order against its own Sheriff!
Unfortunately, Arpaio's indifference to due process and individual rights obviously has percolated to the entire staff. Here is the most recent craziness -- during a trial, a Sheriff's deputy starts going through the defendant's attorney's papers, and takes some of them (all of which were attorney-client privileged).
The explanation was that the documents had not been screened for contraband and weapons, so the deputy had to take (what looks like a couple of sheets of paper) away to study them to make sure there was no gun stapled to them or something. This so lame I am not sure how they can even say it with a straight face, but true to form the Sheriff's office is rallying around its own. More in the AZ Republic.
Why is it the organizations (ie police departments) whom we entrust with uniquely scary power to use force on us citizens tend to have the least well developed internal checks and accountability processes?
Update: Random example of police not getting prosecuted for abuse of power, from today's news. Folks like Miller and Radley Balko can fill their blogs with these type cases every day and not get them all.