Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Another War but not in Iraq instead in Arizona between Joe Arpaio and Mayor Phil Gordon.

Days after Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon mocked his immigration raids as "made-for-TV stunts," Sheriff Joe Arpaio complained to Phoenix officials that the mayor's remarks could lead to civil disobedience or worse.

In a letter to Phoenix City Manager Frank Fairbanks, Arpaio called Gordon's Friday speech "inaccurate" and said that the mayor's call for citizens to "make your voice heard" created "a hostile environment" for his deputies at a protest later that day.

The sheriff's response came three days after Gordon accused Arpaio of racial profiling in his crackdowns on illegal immigrants. Last week, the sheriff deployed deputies and his armed volunteer posse near Cave Creek and Bell roads to conduct sweeps.

During two days, 53 people were arrested, 27 of whom were believed to be in the country illegally.

In his letter, Arpaio alleges that Phoenix Police Chief Jack Harris asked federal officials to revoke his immigration-enforcement abilities, as outlined in an agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Harris said Monday that he asked Alonzo Peña, former special agent in charge of ICE in Phoenix, whether Arpaio's operations in Phoenix were "appropriate" in adhering to the county's 287 (g) agreement forged with ICE.

"That was all," Harris said. "He said he was going to look into it."

The 287 (g) agreement allows ICE officials to train local law enforcement to enforce immigration laws. However, Peña since has moved to the agency's Mexico City liaison office and the new special agent in charge starts in June.

Virginia Kice, regional spokeswoman for ICE, would not comment about the Sheriff's Office agreement. She said ICE constantly monitors partnering agencies' activities to make sure the agreements are being properly enforced. Several other Arizona agencies have similar agreements.

Arpaio also disputed Gordon's assertion that the sheriff has not cooperated meaningfully with Phoenix police. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office informed Phoenix police of its current crackdown days in advance, Arpaio said.

"Gordon's claim that officers were put in danger by my operation is directly contrary to the communique received by my office indicating that Phoenix police had no 'special needs which required being addressed,' " Arpaio said in his letter. "Mayor Gordon's remarks were not only patently false; they instilled fear and acrimony in the community he serves."

Gordon said the sheriff's notices did not give the department adequate time to assess the potential effect on undercover operations police officers have going in the area.

"His cursory e-mails to the Phoenix Police Department are not adequate notification of his intentions - and notification is not cooperation," Gordon said in a statement.

"He purposefully sets the stage for confrontation, and then points at everyone else."

Arpaio's letter seemed certain to prolong a war of words between the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and City Hall about how much manpower a law-enforcement agency should devote to investigating illegal immigration.

Gordon said he was not surprised by Arpaio's reaction.

"If you criticize the sheriff, you know what's coming next," he said. "The sheriff's sad and predictable response to criticism is always to retaliate. The issue here is public safety and nothing else."

Gordon, who endorsed Arpaio in his last election, decided to criticize his tactics Friday after the sheriff began blasting Phoenix for not doing more to arrest illegal immigrants living in the city.

In his letter, Arpaio says Gordon's remarks threaten future cooperation between the city and the Sheriff's Office.

"Every day, this sheriff's office voluntarily provides many unique services to the Phoenix Police Department," he said. "What we do saves your officers thousands of man hours and allows them to go back onto the streets to fight crime.

"I am very concerned that this negative and misleading rhetoric by Mayor Gordon and other elected officials is seriously deteriorating our excellent and longstanding relationship."

Phoenix police said they were unprepared to respond to the sheriff's remarks late Monday and would respond today.

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