Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office has agreed to further investigate 28 sex-crimes cases as part of a re-examination of more than 400 alleged sexual assaults that the agency failed to adequately investigate between 2005 and 2008.The Arizona Republic reports that county prosecutors who have been reviewing the cases as part of the re-examination returned 59 cases to sheriff’s detectives in late July asking for additional work.
Sheriff’s administrators agreed to do more investigation on 28 cases and said the agency had exhausted all leads to track down victims, suspects or witnesses on the rest.
The newspaper has published a series of stories that found that some cases were ignored and that some of the shortcomings of the investigations and the lengthy delays in resolving cases have left alleged predators free to continue finding other victims. The Republic reported that the sheriff’s office acknowledges systemic failures and that it has addressed many of those shortcomings in the last three years. Still, some of the sex-crimes cases are still being investigated.
Arpaio concedes there were investigative failures in the sex-crimes squad, but defended his agency for trying to correct the problem after it came to light. He told The Republic that having difficulty in investigating sex crimes is not uncommon in police agencies. He also said that he thinks his agency was being singled out.
“Right now, I’m comfortable with the management I have, that this situation has been resolved,” Arpaio said. “I don’t expect it, and I will not tolerate it if it happens again.”
The Republic also reported that:
— Current and former sheriff’s employees say past staffing shortages were exacerbated by the agency’s preoccupation with other priorities, such as illegal immigration and public corruption cases.
When county supervisors provided more than $600,000 to fund six additional detective positions to investigate child abuse in fiscal 2007, none was added to the sex-crimes squad. Sheriff’s administrators now say they have no idea where those positions were added or what became of the money after it was added to the budget.
— An audit conducted by Arpaio’s office of the cases didn’t give a full picture of the investigative failures.
While the sheriff’s audit showed 15 cases in which no investigation was conducted, the newspaper’s analysis of the audit found that more than twice as many cases weren’t investigated.
— Sheriff’s administrators blame the errors largely on David Hendershott, then the top aide to Arpaio, saying he ignored concerns about staffing levels in the sheriff’s sex-crimes squad, and on supervisors in the operation, who allegedly failed to monitor their detectives’ work.
Hendershott’s latitude in exercising the power delegated to him by Arpaio was clear when he stripped the sex-crimes unit of two of its four detectives in 2007 so they could work for him on a training program in Honduras.
The two detectives were diverted to produce training materials and fly to Honduras as part of a program that was Hendershott’s brainchild. Billed as a mission to train police there, it also allowed Hendershott to collect photos of criminals to use in facial-recognition software he was promoting.
Hendershott said the chiefs of the agency’s various divisions set staffing levels. “In retrospect, I very much regret giving up the approval and review authority to the area chiefs regarding personnel because that was at the heart of the failure,” Hendershott said. “Once we learned of the problems, the sheriff and I did everything right.”
Hendershott was fired in April 2011 for alleged misconduct.