Did the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office recent use of Racketeering Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) funds to send staff members to Honduras violate the law-enforcement purposes to which such funds are limited?
Did the sheriffs highly publicized saturation patrolscomprised of nearly 200 deputies and posse memberstrespass the jurisdiction of the Phoenix Police Department? The feud between the Sheriffs Office and local police departments, bereft of coordination or agreement over priorities, threatens to devolve into law enforcement anarchy.
Whatever the rationale the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office had for those actions, both diverted scarce resources away from vital law enforcement duties that fall within the Sheriffs Offices core duties:
- Unserved warrants, including those for violent offenders, number an estimated 70,000.
- Dozens of criminal defendants have missed court appearances because deputies in charge of moving inmates were told to skip shifts due to excessive overtime.
- The Sheriffs Office closed three regional booking facilities in Surprise, Avondale, and Mesa, forcing police officers in all 26 Maricopa County jurisdictions to book criminal suspects at the Fourth Avenue jail in downtown Phoenix. The greatly increased transportation time removes officers from the streets and induces them to simply cite and release criminals.
To avoid competing law enforcement and duplication of resources, the Legislature should clarify the jurisdictions of the Sheriffs Office and local police departments. And the Sheriffs Offices spending practices should be made far more transparent through regular, comprehensive audits. Phoenix's enduring crime problem is too severe to let the status quo continue.
Clint Bolick is the director of the Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation at the Goldwater Institute.
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