He's a law unto himself, but Sheriff Joe's time may be up

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Photo / AP
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Photo / AP

Meetr "Sheriff Joe" Arpaio.

He's 84, has zero tolerance for Latino immigrants and criminals, and humiliates them by dressing them in underwear and publicly parading them in chain gangs.

The self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America" has ruled Maricopa County in Arizona, since 1992, and is up for re-election for his seventh term next week.

But there are signs some of the locals are developing zero tolerance for him, and will dump him when they go to the polling booths.

Sheriff Joe appears unworried, and unrepentant, a 60 Minutes catch-up with the controversial lawman reveals this week.

Not even the spectre of the US District Court trying to jail him can dent him.

It's been that way since the world first met Sheriff Joe almost 20 years ago.

He's spent most of it maximising criminals' shame and ensuring the force under his control targets people who have illegally crossed the nearby Mexican border into the United States.

He speaks of Mexicans as "rapists" and "terrorists". He's a huge supporter of Donald Trump. And Trump returns the favour.

Sheriff Joe's "zero tolerance policy" towards illegal Latino immigrants doesn't see him just place them under arrest. He also parades them in pink underwear and in public chain gangs, an exercise in supreme humiliation.

His prisons are bulging, so he houses them in Army-surplus tents, where many of them await deportation.

The fact he keeps getting elected indicates locals support his stance, but now, it seems Sheriff Joe has finally crossed the line.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo / AP
Sheriff Joe Arpaio at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo / AP

He'll face court next month for criminal contempt, after refusing an order to stop using racial profiling.

The step too far began in 2009 when the Sheriff's deputies pulled over a then-64-year-old Dan Magos, and held him at gunpoint.

Trouble is Mr Magos was no illegal immigrant. He actually immigrated legally in the 1950s, and is an American citizen. And there was no reason, other than, it's claimed, the Sheriff's systems of racial profiling, to pull him over.

Mr Magos complained, and the ensuing lawsuit may just bring the Sheriff undone.

Magos is now 71 and is a plaintiff in an ongoing class action civil rights federal lawsuit in which Arpaio and his department were found to have racially profiled Latino drivers and passengers in Maricopa County.

In August, the US District Judge presiding over the case, ruled that Arpaio and three others be referred to the U.S. Attorney's Office for prosecution of criminal contempt of court. He was charged this month.

The contempt ruling stems from the judge's finding that Arpaio wilfully violated several court orders. The violations included disobeying an order to stop targeting Latinos in massive traffic patrols and failing to disclose evidence.

It's back in court on December 6, but for the Sheriff, next week's election day is the more important date right now.

For the first time in his political career, after 24 years in office, he's trailing by a significant margin late in the campaign after a series of public missteps - with the criminal contempt charge the biggest, the LA Times reports.

Rallies against Arpaio have been marked by the presence of a six-metre inflatable figure of a handcuffed Arpaio in his own jail's striped uniform.

On election night, anti-Arpaio groups are planning an "Arpaio Retirement Party" outside of his Phoenix office, complete with a street concert.

The group Bazta Arpaio (Stop Arpaio) has a running clock on its website, counting down the minutes until "we end Arpaio's rule."

But despite the polls, and the threat of jail, Sheriff Joe isn't beaten yet.

"I am going to fight this. I'm not going to resign like some of my critics want me to do," he told reporters.

"And I am going to be re-elected, and I will continue serving this county."

- news.com.au

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