By Diego Graglia, FI2W web editor
Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has become famous for his made-for-TV antics, like forcing inmates to use pink underwear, and his immigration enforcement fervor, which has drawn heavy criticism from civil rights advocates. Now, he’s getting his own FOX reality show and pro-immigrant organizations are not happy.
In response to the FOX Reality Channel’s announced launch of Smile, You’re Under Arrest!, America’s Voice is gathering support for a petition which asks the Department of Justice to investigate Arpaio “for gross civil rights violations in the name of immigration enforcement.”
Arpaio is a controversial figure in his home of Maricopa County (which encompasses Phoenix) and way beyond.
Just last Wednesday, a meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors featured the arrests of four of his critics for being disruptive — they were detained by sheriff’s deputies. Those arrested are apparently linked to groups that have campaigned against the sheriff. According to The New York Times, they want the board “to have greater oversight of Sheriff Arpaio, whose get-tough tactics have gained him nationwide attention but who has been accused by critics of racial profiling and maintaining deplorable conditions at the county jails, among other things.” (The tally of anti-Arpaio arrestees has reached nine in recent months.)
His new TV show is scheduled to launch after Christmas. The channel’s website says “Smile…creates elaborate comical stings to bring real runaway fugitives to justice.
Armed with a troupe of improvisational actors, comedy writers and of course, the police, the show masterminds some of the most hysterical and outrageous stings ever caught on tape.
Actual wanted criminals are lured in using various scenarios such as a job as an extra on a movie set with the promise of good pay; or a fake fashion shoot where the subject thinks he is about to become a supermodel. In the end all the participants are revealed as officers of the law, and the criminal is apprehended. It’s a prank show that takes the entire genre to a whole new level – who knew comedy could be this dangerous?
“It’s Punk’d meets Cops,” Scott Satin, the show’s producer, told The Arizona Republic. Lisa Allen, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office, said, “A lot of thought and a lot of meetings went into it. It was a unique marriage between law enforcement and entertainment, and we had to make sure it was right.”
But so much of what Arpaio has done is wrong, according to pro-immigration advocates.
America’s Voice compiled a fact sheet [here in pdf] which notes that 2,700 lawsuits have been filed against the sheriff between 2004 and 2007. The document says a study showed Latinos are targeted in his office’s high-profile sweeps and in traffic stops. It also notes that the Phoenix mayor and members of the Arizona state legislature have called for a federal investigation of Arpaio’s practices. (And that the sheriff staged a “phony murder plot against himself.”)
Another organization, the Immigration Policy Center, released its own fact sheet [click for pdf] saying,
Over the past year and a half, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona has transformed his police department into an immigration-enforcement agency, gaining international publicity in the process. Yet a growing number of elected officials, media outlets, and religious and civic leaders have criticized Sheriff Arpaio’s tactics and their impact on his community.
To round out its campaign, America’s Voice released this video on Arpaio: