Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Here is How To Make a Safer and Truly Prosperous Society


Acts of violence, including mass shootings — like the horrible one in Las Vegas in 2017 or the workplace shooting in Illinois last month — send politicians and everyday American citizens looking for answers.

My work in law enforcement for 55 years, both at the federal level and as sheriff for one of the country’s most populous counties, gave me plenty of opportunities to see that preventing crime begins first and foremost in changing hearts and minds.

Politicians like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi look for simple answers. For example, they think passing more gun control legislation will address the problem, but some of the worst mass shootings have occurred in places with the strictest gun laws.

Pelosi’s home state of California has a universal background check requirement like the one she and her fellow Democrats are currently pushing at the federal level, but it did not prevent the 2015 San Bernardino shooting during which the killers took the lives of 14 people and injured 22 others.

The perpetrators had murder in their hearts and found the means to carry out their designs.

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Pathologies like violence and drug addiction wreak such havoc in this country because too many Americans have reacted irresponsibly to the freedom and prosperity they enjoy, which is unparalleled in human history.

One aspect of the age in which we live is people are truly free and have the means to take advantage of that freedom. Before World War II, many people never traveled more than 100 miles from their hometowns.

The young man married his childhood sweetheart. The couple lived in a tiny flat or home that, for the fortunate, offered indoor plumbing and electricity. He worked with his back and his hands and she cooked, cleaned house and reared children. At the end of their lives, they were likely buried in a cemetery within walking distance of their birthplaces.

That was a hard way of life, with no safety nets for those visited by tragedy. No one proposes to turn back the clock to what were not really the good old days — especially those of us who remember some of them.

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Even so, the hardships of yesteryear that made the family a survival unit produced values of interdependence, community and responsibility.

Those values started to fade after World War II when the American industrial engine doubled the standard of living in the 1950s — and doubled again in the 1960s.

By the 1970s, free Americans with money in their pockets were shirking personal and social responsibilities in favor of new ethics: if it feels good, do it. Or, “I’m not responsible for anybody except me. Whatever I want, I deserve it, no matter how I get it.”

The generations that planted those attitudes now reap a harvest of worry. The family, the neighborhood, and the community are fragile institutions, which are imperiled when wrong values take hold.

Violent crime is one inevitable result when these institutions falter.

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Fortunately, there are encouraging signs that all this worry is fostering the beginnings of change. Mothers mobilize against gangs. Whole neighborhoods organize for crime prevention. More and more parents realize that children cannot rear themselves.

Churches are more actively engaging in their communities and schools are directing more energy toward encouraging personal responsibility.

The people and their institutions will have to do a lot more, though. The crime problem cannot be solved by merely passing new laws or by law enforcement officers alone.

The creation of a safe and truly prosperous society must begin by changing the hearts and minds of Americans. Let us all dedicate ourselves to that cause.

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Known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio had a long and decorated career in law enforcement before being elected sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, in 1992. He is now a Special Contributor to The Western Journal.
Known as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio had a long and decorated career in law enforcement before being elected to Sheriff of Maricopa County in 1992.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1950 to 1953, and as a Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas, NV, police officer, Arpaio went on to build a law enforcement career as a federal narcotics agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). For almost a decade, Arpaio was stationed in foreign countries where he headed the DEA combatting the drug trade in which, even by today’s standards, are highly volatile and dangerous in Turkey, the Middle East, Mexico and Central and South America. He was also a diplomatic attaché. In his last years with the DEA, Arpaio also gained invaluable expertise on border issues and enforcement as the head of the DEA in the border states of Arizona and Texas. He concluded his remarkable federal career as head of the DEA for Arizona.

In 1992, Arpaio successfully campaigned to become the Sheriff of Maricopa County, becoming the head of the nation’s third largest Sheriff’s Office which employs over 3,400 people. He served an unprecedented six 4-year terms. During his tenure as Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arpaio consistently earned high public approval ratings.

In August, 1993, he started the nation’s largest Tent City for convicted inmates. Two thousand convicted men and women serve their sentences in a canvas incarceration compound. It was here that Arpaio launched his get-tough policies for inmates. He banned smoking, coffee, movies, pornographic magazines, and unrestricted TV in all jails. It is a remarkable success story that has attracted the attention of government officials, presidential candidates, and media worldwide.

Of equal success and notoriety were his chain gangs, which contributed thousands of dollars of free labor to the community by picking up litter, painting over graffiti and burying the indigent in the county cemetery.

Another program Arpaio was very well known for is the pink underwear he made all inmates wear. Years ago, when the Sheriff learned that inmates were stealing jailhouse white boxers, Arpaio had all inmate underwear dyed pink for better inventory control.

As chief law enforcement officer for the county, Arpaio continued to reduce crime with hard-hitting enforcement methods. He began an all-volunteer posse of 3,000 members, making it the nation’s largest volunteer posse. Posse men and women help in search and rescue and other traditional police work as well as in special operations like rounding up deadbeat parents, fighting prostitution, patrolling malls during holidays, and investigating animal cruelty complaints. The posse’s contributions are invaluable and essentially free to taxpayers.

In addition to these tough measures, the Sheriff launched rehabilitative programs like “Hard Knocks High,” the only accredited high school under a Sheriff in an American jail, and ALPHA, an anti-substance-abuse program that has greatly reduced recidivism.

He is now a Special Contributor to The Western Journal.

On a personal note, Sheriff Arpaio and his wife Ava have been married for over 56 years and have two children, both residing in the Phoenix area. The Arpaios have four grandchildren.
Topics of Expertise
Drug Enforcement, Law Enforcement, Politics