Joe Arpaio Biography

(Former Maricopa County Sheriff)
Joe Arpaio

Birthday: June 14, 1932 (Gemini)

Born In: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Joe Arpaio is an American politician and former law enforcement officer, best known for serving as the 36th sheriff of Maricopa County in the U.S. state of Arizona. He was elected for six terms, from 1993 to 2017, making him the longest-serving elected sheriff in the history of Maricopa County. With over 55 years of experience as a law enforcement officer, Arpaio's achievements have earned him the title of "the toughest sheriff in America" from the media. He served in the U.S. army during the Korean War. After being discharged, he began his career in the police force. He then served the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics for more than 26 years. During his DEA special-agent tenure, Arpaio was posted in Istanbul, Turkey, Mexico City, the Middle East, Central America, and South America. After being elected as the sheriff, Arpaio established several unique programs for his county. His enforcement methods reduced crimes in the state. At the same time, his office solved several high-profile murder cases, tracked drug trafficking, tackled controversial investigations regarding corrupt government officials, and fought against illegal immigration. However, Arpaio has earned his share of criticism, too, for conducting shoddy investigations in several critical cases, especially in cases related to sexual abuse. His office was also accused of racial profiling. Arpaio lost the re-election to Democrat Paul Penzone in 2016.

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Quick Facts

Also Known As: Joseph Michael Arpaio

Age: 89 Years, 89 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Ava Arpaio (m. 1958)

father: Nicola Arpaio

Born Country: United States

Political Leaders American Men

Height: 1.70 m

Ancestry: Italian American

U.S. State: Massachusetts

City: Springfield, Massachusetts

Childhood & Early Life

Joe Arpaio was born Joseph Michael Arpaio, on June 14, 1932, in Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S., to an Italian couple. His mother passed away while delivering him. Hence, his father raised him singlehandedly.

His father owned a grocery store. After graduating high school, Arpaio joined his father in his business. He worked with his father until he turned 18.

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From 1950 to 1954, Joe Arpaio served in the medical department of the U.S. army. He was posted in France as a military policeman. After his discharge in 1954, Arpaio began his service as a police officer in Washington, D.C.

He then moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1957. Six months later, he became a special agent of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which later merged with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). In his 25-year tenure at the DEA, Arpaio was posted in Argentina, Turkey, and Mexico. He eventually became the department head and was posted in Arizona.

After he left the DEA, Arpaio joined a travel venture. His wife, who ran Starworld Travel Agency, helped him land the job.

In 1992, Joe Arpaio was voted to be a sheriff. He was re-elected in 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012. In 1993, he set up the Tent City housing facility, which served as a temporary concentration camp and housing facility for the Maricopa County Jail prisoners.

In 1995, Arpaio reintroduced the concept of chain gangs. He employed female volunteers for the group the following year.

In 2005, Arpaio made efforts to implement immigration laws. He took strict actions against the business ventures that hired Latinos and unauthorized immigrants with fake identity cards.

In February 2007, Joe Arpaio launched the in-house radio station named KJOE, to keep the staff entertained. In 2018–2019, he made a guest appearance on the Fox Reality Channel show Smile... You're Under Arrest!

In 2008, Joe Arpaio and former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas began working on several investigations associated with government-related corruption. The investigations targeted political opponents, justices, county supervisors, and administrators, while the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors was involved in a string of lawsuits.

In 2010, Arpaio, along with Thomas, sought to have a grand jury to indict several county judges, supervisors, and members of the Board of Supervisors. However, the jury ordered the end of the investigation. Arpaio and Thomas lost all the 11 cases that the individuals had filed against them.

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In 2010, Arpaio had established a committee named the Campaign to Re-Elect Joe Arpaio 2012.

In November 2010, Arpaio created a group of armed posse comitatus to target illegal immigration operations and enforce immigration laws.

In 2012, Arpaio began an investigation of President Barack Obama's birth certificate. The case remained open until July 2016. He argued that he had launched the investigation because his county people had demanded it.

Arpaio's jail was featured in an episode of the National Geographic Channel show Banged Up Abroad in 2013.

In March 2016, Arpaio announced the launch of the Sheriff Joe Arpaio Action Fund.

In August 2018, Arpaio lost the Republican primary to Martha McSally and Kelli Ward.

On August 25, 2019, Arpaio announced his candidature for the 2020 sheriff of Maricopa County.

Controversies & Criticisms

In 1997, Amnesty International criticized the facilities at Tent City. The organization stated that the camp violated human and constitutional rights.

Arpaio's jail was shamed for serving Nutraloaf and food recovered from rescue to the inmates. Moreover, the prison provided only two meals a day.

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In 1999, undercover county deputies arrested 18-year-old James Saville for conspiring Joe Arpaio's murder. Saville was imprisoned for 4 years without being tried. In July 2003, the Maricopa County Superior Court acquitted Saville, citing that he was part of Arpaio's plan to organize a publicity stunt. In 2004, Saville filed a lawsuit against Arpaio and Maricopa County for his wrongful arrest. In 2008, the county settled the case by paying a compensation amount.

In 2000, Arpaio's office was targeted for its inadequate investigations for several severe cases, such as rape cases of minors. In all such cases, the county violated the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) standards and gave exceptional clearance without any investigation.

By 2007, over 400 sex crimes under Arpaio's office had improper investigations. Reportedly, a considerable number of victims were related to illegal immigrants.

One of the prominent controversial cases that Arpaio's office investigated poorly was that of the rape of mentally disabled minor Sabrina Morrison by her uncle, Patrick Morrison. The county detective lied that the medical test showed no sign of sexual assault and gave Patrick a clean chit for 4 years. As a result, Sabrina was labeled a liar, and Patrick raped and threatened her repeatedly.

Patrick Morrison was finally arrested and charged in February 2012. He was sentenced to 24 years in prison.

In October 2007, the founders of the Phoenix New Times, Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, were charged and arrested for publishing an article regarding a grand jury investigation on Arpaio's office. In response, Lacey and Larkin filed the Section 1983 lawsuit against the office for violating their civil rights.

In 2008, a federal grand jury began to set up an inquiry against Arpaio and accused him of abuse of power for an FBI investigation. The jury closed the case on August 31, 2012.

In June 2008, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division accused Arpaio of conducting biased and illegal searches and confiscations. On September 2, 2010, the Department of Justice filed a case against him to make him cooperate with the investigation.

According to an internal memo by Maricopa deputy chief Frank Munnell, Arpaio's second-in-command and many top officers of the county had been inefficient in managing the jail and cases under the office. The memo was released in September 2010.

According to the financial analysis report of the Maricopa County Office of Management and Budget, Arpaio had misused a substantial amount for which he had not provided any information.

In September 2012, Arpaio defended a federal class action suit and a United States Department of Justice lawsuit for his racially charged actions.

On July 31, 2017, Arpaio was accused of contempt of court when the MCSO violated the court's order and continued its racial profiling practices. Arpaio was to be sentenced in October 2017, but President Donald Trump officially pardoned him on August 25. The action triggered a controversy.

Personal Life

Joe Arpaio has been married to his wife, Ava, since 1958 and has two children.

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