Showing posts with label Maricopa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Maricopa. Show all posts

31 August 2017

Racial Profiling, or Why Joe Arpaio Would Have Locked Me Up


by Eve Fisher

I am not, in any way, a fan of Joe Arpaio's pardon.  The former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona (which includes Phoenix) was a racist power-mad s.o.b.  (I know, I know, I should tell you how I really feel.)

Arpaio apparently believed that anyone Hispanic - or looked Hispanic - had to be illegal (NOTE: they're not.)  Arpaio and his deputies specifically targeted people with brown skin, and would simply pull over people who looked Hispanic.  "About a fifth of traffic stops, most of which involved Latino drivers, violated Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable seizures. "

Image result for maricopa az county jail
Maricopa Co. Jail -
Tent City
It is important to remember that Arpaio ran a jail, not a prison. Nonetheless, Arpaio referred to his jail as a concentration camp, and called all detainees (60% of whom had only been arrested, and had not yet arraigned, tried, or convicted) criminals.

NOTE:  Coffin v. United States 1895 established "presumption of innocence" as the bedrock of our criminal justice system.  But not, apparently, in Maricopa County.

Sheriff Arpaio dressed his detainees in black-and-white striped uniforms and pink underwear because it gave him a good laugh.  He fed the prisoners rotten food - green bologna was a favorite - because they didn't deserve any better. He housed detainees outdoors, under Army-surplus tents, without any cooling measures and inadequate water - the temperatures in the tents could easily reach 140 degrees. “I put them up next to the dump, the dog pound, the waste-disposal plant.”  Sheriff’s department officers punished Latino inmates who had difficulty understanding orders in English by locking down their pods, putting them in solitary confinement, and refusing to replace their soiled sheets and clothes. The investigation found that sheriff’s department officers addressed Latino inmates as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” “f***ing Mexicans,” and “stupid Mexicans.”   (The New Yorker)

But wait, there's more!  Arpaio was a real piece of work. He was (and is) one of the most prominent and persistent "birthers" around, to the point where he used Maricopa County funds to send a 5 man deputy squad to Hawaii to investigate then-President Obama's birth certificate.  He set up a fake assassination attempt to boost his reelection.  He tried to get a grand jury to indict a number of Maricopa County judges, supervisors, and employees.  (The grand jury rejected all the claims.)  His office improperly cleared - i.e., claimed to have solved - up to 75% of cases without investigations or arrests, and simply ignored hundreds of rape cases.  He claimed that he lacked enough detectives to do the job - and when he was given $600,000 for more detectives, none were hired and the money vanished.  Along with almost $100 million of Maricopa funds.  (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_Arpaio, and The Atlantic)

But wait, there's more!  Back in 1995, a wheelchair-bound paraplegic named Richard Post needed help to urinate; well, that was asking too much, so the jailers strapped him into a restraint chair, tightened the straps as tight as they would go, and left him there for six hours.  And broke his neck. In case you're wondering, he'd been arrested for possession of a joint.  And no, he hadn't even been tried yet.  Presumption of innocence...  And no, this wasn't the only mauling, maiming, and even death that occurred under Arpaio's rule, in Arpaio's jail, where, remember, over 60% of his "criminals" were simply awaiting trial, often stuck because they couldn't afford cash bail. (Phoenix New Times)

What finally began the end of Arpaio's career was when a Mexican man holding a "valid tourist's visa" was stopped in Maricopa County, arrested, and detained for 9 hours in 2007. The man sued Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, alleging racial profiling. Four years later, in December, 2011, a federal judge in Phoenix ordered Arpaio to stop detaining anyone not suspected of a state or federal crime, reminding him that simply being in the U.S. illegally is not a crime, only a civil violation. Arpaio's response was to let everyone know that after "they went after me, we arrested 500 more just for spite." He was voted out of office in November of 2016.  He was finally convicted July 31, 2017, of criminal contempt of court. He was pardoned by President Trump August 25, 2017, before he was even officially sentenced.

Okay.  So what do I care?  Aside from the multiple violations of basic human rights, the United States legal system, and the United States Constitution?

After all, I'm not black.  I'm not Hispanic.  I'm not Jewish.  I'm not Native American.  However, I've been mistaken for all of these.  I'm 100% Greek, born there, orphaned there, adopted from there.  (All right, my genome, according to National Geographic, is 50% Greek, 25% Tuscan Italian, and 25% Northern Asian Indian.)

But I know something that blonds don't know.  I learned, very young, that WASP Americans - even those who aren't racist / bigots - are very ignorant of the possibilities of ethnic differences in a group of people who all have brown eyes, black hair, and a slightly darker shade of skin.  To many WASPS, we all look alike.

I was shipped to this country when I was 2 1/2 years old - here's a picture of me from the orphanage. That curly hair, those big dark eyes, led some people in our Arlington, VA world to assume that my parents had (for reasons passing understanding) adopted a child who might have "a touch of the tar brush" as it was so politely put back in the 1950's.  There were also whispers about me in my grandmother's small town in Kentucky. Nothing overt.  Just whispers, enough so that I was aware, early on, that not everyone was as pleased to have me around as my parents and grandparents.

Since then, I've had the privilege of explaining who I am, i.e., where I'm from, to an endless stream of people.  When I travel internationally, I'm the one taken aside for questioning.  I have a passport that says I was born in Athens, Greece, for one thing, and that makes people wonder.  It's only gotten worse since 9/11, and I have had long chats with uniformed personnel in many an airport.  The one exception is Athens, Greece, where the guy looked at my passport and waved me through without even a baggage check.
"Συνεχίστε!" "ευχαριστώ!"  ("Go on through!" "Thanks!")

But even when I don't have to have a passport, such as crossing the border into Canada - and they are always very polite - I'm the one who has to get out of the car and talk directly to the border guard so that s/he can make sure I'm not...  someone else...  something else...  That I really am "American".

I don't mind that.  Well, I do mind, but I can live with it.  But there's more.

In 1960 we moved from Arlington, VA to southern California.  In the '60s, when the California image was blonde, tan, and thin.  I had the tan.

NOTE:  It's all right - I figured if you can't join 'em, beat 'em, and (in the world of mini-skirts and gogo boots) came to school wearing my grandmother's 1930's suits (see illustrations on the right) and an armload of books.  If you're going to stand out, stand out with style.

Moved down South.

A little profiling, here and there.  A  a lot of, "Greece?" said by someone with an extremely puzzled face.  And some other things, like the time a KKK type followed me through the stacks in the public library saying "oink, oink", "Jew pig", "Jew bitch", etc.

And then we came to South Dakota, where I have been taken for Native American.  In a small town West River, my husband and I stopped late one summer night to get a motel room.  Back then, I had long hair, down to my waist, and, since it was summer, a pretty good tan.  I was told they had no vacancies.  I went back to the car and we sat (windows open) to figure out where the next closest town was, and another car pulled up.  A nice blond man got out, went in - I could hear the entire conversation - asked if they had a room, and was told "Yes, sir.  Sign right here." I told some friends about it, and they said, "Oh, yeah.  They're pretty racist up there."

And more.

Now all this happened, but not daily.  (Well, not since my school days - no, you could not pay me enough money to be a child again.)  Just often enough to give me a hint of what it must be like to be truly a minority in this country.  But I'm still officially white, part of the white majority, and I do have privileges. There are all sorts of things I can do without getting arrested, or even stopped by the police:
  • I can change lanes without signaling.
  • I can walk around the neighborhood wearing a hoodie.
  • I can reach for my car registration and proof of insurance in the glove compartment.
  • I can stand on a street corner, looking confused and anxious.
  • I can forget my keys and use a coat hanger to get into my locked car.  Or open a window to get into my locked house. 
  • I can sit on my front porch and watch whatever street show's on offer.  I can even talk to people on the street or make comments to my husband about what's going on.  
  • I can stand in an alley with a group of friends. 
  • I can talk on a cell phone. 
  • I can, and have, driven around with a broken tail light, and for a while, without a front license plate (which wasn't required in the South). 
    • (NOTE:  In the last few years, people have been stopped, arrested, jailed, and even killed for doing each and every one of these things in the United States of America.)  

(Wikipedia)
But, for me, any and all of the above would have been risky behavior in Maricopa County under Joe Arpaio.  Maybe not for you, but for me.  Because of how I look.  

Pardon Joe Arpaio?  I wouldn't have, but what's worse is that he was convicted and then pardoned for a misdemeanor.

Did I mention his "special forces" that led a botched raid in which they firebombed a home to ashes and burned a puppy alive?  (See here)  And found nothing?

Did I mention that Joe Arpaio was/is one of the founders of the The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA, for short) that believes that sheriffs are "the highest executive authority in a county and therefore constitutionally empowered to be able to keep federal agents out of the county"? And, as such, are not responsible to any federal law, agent, or judge?(See CSPOA and/or Southern Poverty Law Center on the movement.)

After all of that, a misdemeanor?  Unpardoned, the most he would have served would have been six months, maximum, and - sadly, tragically - it wouldn't have been in the Arpaio Maricopa County Jail.

Pardon him?  I sure as hell wouldn't have.  But then, I have skin in the game.


PS - Next week, back to quacks, radium and murder.

16 November 2012

The Power of Babeu


by Dixon Hill

Well, the elections are behind us… almost.

In Arizona, as I write this, there are still about 100,000 uncounted ballots. These are a mix of Early Ballots and Provisional Ballots – both of which must be counted by hand for some reason. And, because of this, the fate of a house seat in Tucson still remains too close to call. The difference at the moment: less than 300 votes.

And all those uncounted ballots wait, no one knowing how many will effect this particular race.

Interesting, isn’t it?

I have to tell you: I don’t relish the campaign season.

But, I LOVE voting.

I don’t vote early. I don’t vote often (only once in each election! lol). And

I vote at the polls.

In my district, that means I go to a little church on 82nd Street in Scottsdale, less than a half-mile from my home.

As I approach, I see the front lawn is filled with campaign signs for every party: Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, and a few others I can’t even recall. They sprout like strange vegetation, mixed with signs supporting or condemning certain propositions.

The signs grow so thick I can’t see the grass on either side of the drive as I turn my Jeep into the little church entrance. But they stop abruptly at the “75-Foot Limit” sign.

The campaigning goes right on up to that imaginary line demarcated by those signs.  That far, and no farther. On the other side? Campaign respite. The peace of voting one’s conscience.

When I pass the 75-foot limit, I always feel it. An invisible cloak of Americana, the pleasure of voting at the polls, descends upon me once more. And I’m not the only one.

As I pilot my jeep forward, other folks are walking out. They wear little stickers that proclaim: “I Voted.” I smile at them. They smile at me. Big smiles! bursting with more than a simple greeting. Those smiles they wear are filled with joy, temporary abandonment of strife. Recognition of a fellow traveler. They and I may be voting diametrically opposed tickets – opposites in every category. But, in that moment, it doesn’t matter. We’re united by a bond of fraternity that runs much deeper than politics. A fraternity created by the very Americanism of the practice we’re here to participate in on this fateful day. We– from all walks and all parties– are united, celebrating this distinctly American style of practice, inherent from our forbearers. In that moment– the moment just before and after the act of voting– we’re neither Democrat nor Republican, Green nor Libertarian.

We’re American.   And I LOVE IT! 

I see it and feel it, as I pass those who are finished, as I walk from my parked jeep to the voting line. There is an energy here, a silent buzzing of excitement, of greatness grown from the common person. We stand in line, young and old. The youngest rock back and forth from heels to toes, in anticipation.

I’m telling you, I’m not making this up—it happened! It happened this year. Less than a half-mile from my house.  I saw a young guy, maybe 19 or 20, standing in line at the polls.  And I wasn’t sure his clothing could hold him in because he was so filled with swirling energy, bursting excitement. Silent old ladies, they smiled at him and he nodded and smiled back. Somebody made a small quip, and that was all it took. Laughter rang out up and down the line. Laughter—that pressure valve that lets off the excess energy steaming up inside each of us.

I laughed too. You would have, if you’d been there. I’m sure of it. It wasn’t something a person could help. It just… came out. A great peal of laughter. The designer of the Liberty Bell would have given all he had to craft a bell that made such a sound. But, the hands of man are small, while the excitements of voters are huge. And perfect.

Maybe it didn’t work this way in your hometown, or at your polling place. If that’s the case, I’m sorry to hear it. Because, I know what you’re missing. Thankfully, here in Arizona, it’s easy to register to vote. You can even do it online at the Department of Motor Vehicles website. And, for those who speak Spanish and might not have internet access, tons of small businesses thrive throughout The Valley, where Spanish-speaking shop owners provide DMV services – including voter registration – to anyone who comes through the door. At the polls, the Spanish language ballots are stacked right beside the English language ballots. I know; I got one by accident this year, and had to trade it in for an English language ballot.

The voting I described above – that’s the way it went this year at my polling place. And, that’s the way it’s gone every time I’ve voted at the polls. I really missed that feeling when I was in the Army. Living in another state, I had to vote by Absentee Ballot, and that was a lonely, singular disappointment each time.

That’s why I reveled in hitting the ballots that very first time I was back, after getting out of the Army in 1994. It felt, in some strange and inexplicable way, like coming home again. I was struck by a feeling identical to the one I felt when my U-Haul truck topped that last cactus-studded rise before I dropped down into the great Valley of the Sun, as I made my long way home from Fort Bragg for the last time, and saw Phoenix laid out across the panorama before me. The way I felt when I smelled that scent of desiccated desert dust, the smell of home and hearth, of childhood and all I love about the world rising up to swamp my senses. That feeling rose up from the voting booth floor and engulfed me, all over again.

If problems make it so it doesn’t work this way in your hometown, or at your polling place, I wish you Godspeed in getting things changed! Because everyone deserves the chance to vote his/her conscience.

That’s the thing that counts, in my book.

After over thirty years of voting, I've decided:  The people we vote for? I have to tell you, I don’t think it matters much. Politicians don't run the world; they just think they do.  The people who vote – they’re the one’s who count.

Maybe you disagree.  And, if so, that's fine by me.  It's your business; not mine.  After all, you have your beliefs.  And, I fully support your right to believe what you want.  It's no skin off my nose.  And, it's a large part of the reason I spent roughly a decade of my life dragging an M-16 or M-203 around the jungle or through the bush.

Maybe you didn't even vote.  Maybe you've never voted.  Some folks might condemn you for that.  I won't.  It's your business;  not mine.  Nor anyone else's.  Just yours.

As for me, though --

I love to vote!

My 23-year-old son left the house soon after I arrived home from the polls.  He's young, he has tatoos, and he enjoys skateboarding in the sun.  He rode his skateboard the short distance to that church. And, he came home wearing the same “I Voted” sticker I had stuck to my shirt. He didn’t vote for everybody or everything I did. But, let me tell you something.

I DON’T CARE!

My son is a voter. And that’s what counts, to me.  He's part of the fraternity.

Later, my wife returned from work. She wore the same “I Voted” sticker. She voted a different ticket from mine in many respects. But, let me reiterate.

I DON’T CARE!  It’s the voters who count. And, the act of voting.  Who we vote for pales by comparative importance, in my opinion.  I honestly don't believe it matters all that much.  The fraternity of voters -- they're the ones who count.

On the other hand, if my wife had chosen not to vote, I wouldn't have run her over with our car or jeep.  Voting is a personal decision, in my opinion.  A personal choice.  It has to be, or I believe it's meaningless.  If you're chased to the polls, or forced to pull the lever at gun point -- that's not voting.  It's coercion.  Even if the person forcing you into it, isn't trying to make you choose a certain candidate or cause.

That's the way I see it.

Now, I promised to take some of Florida’s heat off of Leigh…

Maricopa County (in red)
So let me tell you that here in my home county– Maricopa County, a body of land larger than the state of New Jersey – Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the man somebody dubbed “The Toughest Sheriff in America” (and I strongly suspect this sobriquet is emblazoned across the Arpaio’s bed head) was reelected by a whoppingly huge margin, once again, this year. Even though Joe is now 80 years old.

Sheriff Joe wearing his standard expression.
So, all you Sheriff Joe haters can now stop griping at Florida, and turn your attention to Arizona. Because, I can assure you, there is no way on Earth that old man is going to stop rounding up Illegal Aliens. He doesn’t care that the Justice Department sued him over it; he’s not going to stop. Believe me, Ol’ Joe cares a lot more about seeing his face in the papers, than he cares about a DoJ lawsuit. That’s the way he’s built. And, the surest way to keep his face on the front page, these days, is to keep rounding up Illegal Aliens. The only way he’d stop, is if we ignored it. Then he’d have to get his deputies started on some other controversial practice, so he could get press coverage again.

But, on to a more interesting Sheriff – rumored to be just as tough as old Arpaio, but running a county just south of here.

This man is Sheriff Paul Babeu (BAB-you), the sheriff of Pinal County– Arizona's third largest county with an area that's nearly the size of Connecticut.

Babeu, originally from Massachusets, has been Pinal's sheriff since 2008 (the first Republican elected Sheriff in Pinal– ever!).  And, when it comes to illegal immigration, he's just as tough as his Maricopa counterpart– perhaps even tougher.

Pinal County (in red)
Perhaps with good cause, as Pinal County is recognized as one of the most heavily traversed counties in the U.S., when it comes to human or drug smuggling.  Cartels reportedly maintain listening and observation posts in the county to facilitate the flow of narcotics and other illegal goods, while Babeu and his 700 deputies try to stop them.

Oh, and one other thing ....

Babeu's bid for congress, earlier this year, was cut short when an ex-boyfriend claimed that Babeu had threatened to have the guy deported if he outed Babeu.  Babeu denies the claim, saying the only factual part of it is that he is gay, and the fellow was a lover at one time.

That's right. Babeu is gay.

Sheriff Paul Babeu
The guy's a hard-core sheriff in a county that's fighting drug and human traffickers on a daily basis, he was a Major in the Arizona Army National Guard who spent a tour in Iraq, he's Republican, and he's as gay as they come, saying he made no secret of his life style and that, "People who knew me, knew I was gay. I didn't hide it."  

What do I think?  I think having a macho, ass-kicking, hard-charging gay sheriff in my state is GREAT!  If I lived in Pinal County, I'd vote for Babeu in a heartbeat.  I liked him before I knew he was gay, but– and I can't explain why– I like him even better now.  Which is strange, because– as my wife can testify– I'm not necessarily known for going around touting gay rights.  In fact, that's one area where our votes often conflicted on past ballots.  But, discovering that Sheriff Babeu is gay has me reconsidering.

Maybe the next time a gay marriage initiative comes up I'll vote "Aye!"

After all, a hard-charging gay sheriff deserves the state's sanctity, when somebody  kisses him hello at home, after a long day of fighting bad guys.

That's my view, and if it's different from yours . . . well, that's what makes the world a fun place to live in.

So, here's to you, and to wishing you:  Many happy votings in the future!

—Dixon