by JJ Hensley - Dec. 7, 2011 01:50 PM | Source: The Arizona Republic
Two more elected officials joined the chorus calling for the resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio over the botching of sex-crimes cases by his department in 2005.
State Reps. Ruben Gallego and Katie Hobbs, both Phoenix Democrats, held a press conference at the Capitol Wednesday morning to ask that Arpaio step down, two days after U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz, also call for the sheriff to resign.
"We pay for public safety and protection under the law and we expect to get it," Hobbs said. "Justice in Maricopa County has taken a giant step backward thanks to Sheriff Joe Arpaio."
Hobbs said the calls for resignation were not a partisan issue and said voters would have a chance to express themselves in the November election if Arpaio does not step down.
Arpaio said he has no intention of resigning.
The calls for Arpaio's resignation have come in recent days after national media outlets began reporting this week about hundreds of sex-crimes cases the Sheriff's Office mishandled between 2005 and 2007.
Local media outlets reported in the spring that the Sheriff's Office failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crimes cases, including dozens in El Mirage, over a two-year period because of poor oversight and former Chief Deputy David Hendershott's desire to protect a key investigator from bad publicity. The problems with the cases and Hendershott's motivation to protect an investigator were detailed in a lengthy report released in May that resulted from a months-long internal investigation Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu conducted. Hendershott and two other administrators in Arpaio's office were fired as a result of damning findings by the Babeu investigation.
Arpaio said the problems with the cases came to his attention in 2007 and he assigned an internal team to investigate the mishandled cases.
According to the Sheriff's Office, detectives reactivated 432 sex-crimes cases from throughout the Valley after concerns about the cases were raised, making 19 arrests. Of the remainder, 115 were determined to be unfounded, 67 were classified as "cold cases" and 221 were "exceptionally" cleared without arrest.
The FBI's standards for clearing cases through exception state that the investigation should have: established the identity of a suspect; gathered enough information to support an arrest, charge and review from prosecutors; determined the exact location of the suspect; and cited a reason outside investigators' control that would prevent arrest and prosecution.
The Sheriff's Office released a statement saying the FBI's criteria are part of a voluntary crime-reporting program to compile statistical information and reports and is not intended for oversight on how local agencies clear cases.
"We took care of the problem many years ago," Arpaio said.
An internal investigation into the mishandled cases is complete and sheriff's administrators are in the process of disciplining the deputies involved, Arpaio said.
That internal report will be released after the disciplined employees have exhausted the appeals process, said a sheriff's spokesman.