By Dennis Gilman
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
While Sheriff Arpaio’s 21st saturation patrol was promoted by his own press release as focusing on “guns, gangs and drugs,” not one gun or gang related arrest was made. Only one suspect was arrested for drugs and it was for a small amount of marijuana.
Yet the October 18th and 19th sweep used over 150 deputies and support staff to make 402 stops. It netted only 11 felony arrests.
Video by Dennis Gilman of an October 19th stop:
These figures came from Arpaio’s own data released and shared with media on November 9th, during an almost nonexistent community meeting. The cost to tax payers was not released. It rarely is.
But Arpaio has been ordered not to conduct this type of operation by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow. This is due to his repeated violations of racial profiling during previous sweeps, which Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) has been found guilty of, unless it is required due to exigent circumstances.
During this sweep, Arpaio made it clear to more than one local TV reporter that his reason for this operation was “to send a message.”
On the morning of August 8th, Detention Officer Jorge Vargas was shot and killed while leaving home for work. On September 25th, Phoenix Police arrested 15 year old Leonard Moreno for that murder. He now sits in the sheriff’s custody awaiting trial.
The definition of exigent is something requiring an immediate action or response. An August 8th shooting cannot be exigent in October especially when the alleged shooter is already in custody.
Per the courts order, no operation of this nature is to be performed without a court monitor unless an exigent circumstance exists. Exigent circumstances are rarely used by law enforcement and even harder for law enforcement to argue in court if they don’t exist. Generally it would be for an extreme emergency. For example, to enter a building if there is no time to obtain a warrant and an officer or person’s life is at risk. This was certainly not the case.
Deputy Chief David Trombi and Captain Pat Lopez conducted the “community after-action meeting” on November 9th, which was a cynical attempt to comply with Judge Snow’s orders. Community out-reach will soon be required by MCSO as will a monitor overseeing Arpaio’s operations.
Arpaio was absent because he had a parade he needed to be in, which was apparently more “exigent” than attending his own meeting. If you subtract media, Deputies, lawyers and the 8 protesters, only 3 people showed up for the meeting.
While the area of the sweep was announced as a 40 mile radius from Litchfield Park to 43rd Ave and Salt River to Camelback, legal observers witnessed no saturation activity in the mostly white and upper to middle class areas or near the murdered detention officer’s home. Most stops were witnessed in the areas where minorities live and work.
The meeting, itself, took place at the Litchfield Park Library grounds, which was also far from the area any saturation activity was witnessed during the operation. I asked several of Arpiao’s critics why they didn’t attend the meeting. Most gave me the same reason: They didn’t want to feed into Arpaio’s Carnival Barking that our local TV media seems to cater to.
But let’s focus on Deputy Chief Trombi for a moment. Trombi was the point person designated to answer questions regarding MCSO’s compliance of the court’s order. In 2009, Judge Gary Donahue found Trombi in contempt and fined him 10,000 dollars for repeatedly failing to get inmates from MCSO’s jails to court on time.
Judge Donahue determined the sheriff’s court-security detail was chronically and deliberately under staffed. Witnesses and victims of crimes showing up to testify found themselves having to reschedule. Critics pointed to the outrageous resources and manpower being diverted to Arpaio’s saturation patrols, which is why Arpaio was found guilty of racial profiling in the first place. Adrian Cruz, a child rapist serving a life sentence, was taken to court to testify in another rape case. Under Trombi’s watch, he was left unattended in a waiting room. Trombi claims he was handcuffed and must’ve gotten a paper clip to free himself. Five years later, he is still free and his victims live in fear.
This video covers the sweep or saturation patrol Arpaio performed on the 18th and 19th of October, 2013, as well as the community meeting his office held on November 9th.