Arizona voters ditch longtime Sheriff Joe Arpaio

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Joe Arpaio, the infamously nasty sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, is losing his badge. After seven terms in office, he was finally ditched by voters in favor of a challenger, Paul Penzone. NPR reports that the incoming sheriff has a lot to do cleaning up Arpaio’s scandal-ridden department.

The defeat ends a run in office that began the same year Bill Clinton first won the presidency. It comes two weeks after Arpaio, 84, was charged with criminal contempt of court for ignoring a federal judge’s order in a racial profiling case.

He talks tough, but his immigrant-hunting games and mistreatment of inmates have cost the county vast sums in settlements, writes Rebekah L. Sanders. The racial profiling case alone cost local taxpayers $15m or so in legal fees and payouts.

The case began in 2007 when Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, a Mexican tourist legally in the United States, was stopped outside a Cave Creek church where day laborers were known to gather. Melendres, a passenger in a car driven by a white driver, claimed that deputies detained him for nine hours and that the detention was unlawful.

Eventually, the case grew to include the complaints of two Hispanic siblings from Chicago who felt they were profiled by sheriff’s deputies, and an assistant to former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, whose Hispanic husband claimed he was detained and cited while white motorists nearby were treated differently.

This is just what they finally nailed him on; among the many “controversies” that Arpaio enjoyed, prison deaths and arrests of critics were among the many preludes. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

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