Friday, August 14, 2009
There is a truly tasteless joke that goes as follows.
Q) What is the definition of mixed emotions?
A) Your brand new Mercedes going off a cliff with your mother in law inside.
I feel similarly mixed emotions whenever I read about Joe Arpaio, Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona. His latest appearance in the news concerns an immigration raid on the Royal Paper Converting Company plant in Phoenix Arizona. According to the Associated Press, it was the second such raid in a year. It netted 44 arrests with nine individuals turned over to federal authorities . The others were charged with felony identity theft.
I found myself applauding Arpaio for actually enforcing our country's immigration laws. New York City proudly proclaims its refusal to getting involved in immigration law enforcement. Many other municipalities have similarly shredded the oath of office to uphold the law.
Despite this, I am tired of Joe Arpaio for many reasons. He proudly shows off the discomfort he inflicts on prisoners under his jurisdiction, from pink jump suits to taunting them with the Food Channel on jailhouse TV.
What I most dislike is Arpaio's perpetual grandstanding. He has a public relation's staff of five. He has an ego the size of Arizona. I do not like the idea of coddling inmates. Prison should be an austere environment geared towards a mix of deterrence, treatment and restitution. There is actually an element of science to what works best in law enforcement.
New York City has cut its crime drastically through a "broken windows" policy and a crackdown on quality of life crimes. It didn't take a public relations staff to let New Yorkers know that squeegee men and aggressive panhandlers were getting attention from law enforcement.
New York City has a well trained police force. Letting them do their jobs without politically motivated interference makes a major difference. There is actually a place for treating a law breaker like a human being, even as you put him through the system. I was at a precint meeting where a young man who had had his brushes with the law came back to publicly thank a police officer who had taken an interest in him as a human being and not as a crime statistic.
There is a place for the law to express public disapproval of anti-social behavior. The societal desire for revenge is meant to be channelled, not eliminated.
I approve of enforcing laws. I have lived through politicised non enforcement of basic laws. Under the administration of the vastly overrated Mayor Ed Koch, I used to buy my cigarettes from stores that openly sold marijuana. I was not a toker back then. If I knew where to buy weed, the cops did as well. That came to an end under Rudy Giuliani. Whatever you can say about Giuliani and his relationship with African Americans in New York, his crime policies saved many lives in African American communities.
Arpaio is heavily into self promotion. His act has worn very thin. He is getting old. He will probably retire soon. I hope that a real police chief who served under Rudy Giuliani or subscribes to Giuluiani's approach to law enforcement comes to replace him. I admit that Arpaio has a big set of shoes to fill. But so does Bozo the Clown. Sphere: Related Content