I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Joe and the Supervisors, contd.

Latest sheriff-county spat: Patrol cars

For months, the Sheriff's Office repeatedly asked Maricopa County officials to dip into a fleet of 67 new law-enforcement vehicles sitting in a garage to replace high-mileage patrol cars that constantly broke down.

The Sheriff's Office said at least 16 of its vehicles needed immediate replacement: Each had more than 112,500 miles. Some faced serious transmission, engine or brake problems. And one was totaled.

The county refused to release the replacement vehicles to the Sheriff's Office - during an ongoing feud over power and money between the two sides.

But on Tuesday, the county's Office of Management and Budget added a last-minute recommendation to today's supervisors' meeting to approve putting eight new patrol vehicles on the road. Others could be added later.

The move comes after The Arizona Republic made inquires about the cars, though county officials say their decision was made independently.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio said the supervisors only made the move to avoid public embarrassment.

"They don't care about this office and public safety," he said. "All they care about is their image."

Lee Ann Bohn, deputy budget director, said she began working on getting the vehicles approved following an Aug. 21 request from the Sheriff's Office.

"My approach was as long as the vehicles were on the street and running, there was no need to pull a running vehicle off the streets," Bohn said.

E-mails obtained by The Republic show the Sheriff's Office notified Bohn on March 31 that new cars were needed. Her staff received similar e-mail requests earlier that month.

Loretta Barkell, the sheriff's executive chief who handles the budget, said she made calls to Bohn's office in January asking for new cars.

In the past, the county purchased new vehicles for the Sheriff's Office, and the vehicles remained in storage until they were needed. But with the sheriff and board facing off in civil lawsuits and the sheriff launching criminal investigations of two supervisors, the two parties have constantly been fighting. New vehicles have not been released all year to the Sheriff's Office.

As new cars sat idle, the county spent nearly $101,000 since February to repair 15 of the old vehicles, according to Sheriff's Office records. The county spent more than $9,000 each to repair four vehicles with one repair costing nearly $13,000. The base price of new Ford Crown Victoria patrol car is nearly $31,000.
"This is a lot of money, and these are not cheap repairs," Barkell said.

The vehicles were used to patrol areas around Mesa, Avondale, Surprise, Cave Creek and Fountain Hills.
Barkell said to her knowledge, there were no incidents where deputies were unable to perform law-enforcement duties because of vehicle problems. Yet, she said there was a risk because vehicles could break down during a pursuit.

Richard de Uriarte, a spokesman for the supervisors, said the problem on releasing vehicles centered on a disagreement over how many cars were salvageable and the two sides had been in negotiations.

However, Arpaio's office said the budget office, which works for the supervisors, stopped releasing new vehicles in January, after the Sheriff's Office refused to divulge to budget officials which of its members were allowed to take law-enforcement vehicles home.

"But why hold up these cars?" Arpaio said.

Bohn said in an effort to save money the county in February adopted a new policy with stricter guidelines on when vehicles should be replaced. In the past, vehicles were automatically replaced after 10 years of use or when they exceeded 100,000 miles.

The Sheriff's Office has about 400 vehicles for sworn officers.

The budget office also raised financial concerns about Arpaio using money from the Jail Enhancement Fund, which comes from court fees, to purchase a new $456,000 bus earlier this year to transport inmates.

Supervisors have yet to authorize the use of the bus, which since May has remained idle near the fleet of new police vehicles at the Durango Jail in southwest Phoenix. Since late spring, the Sheriff's Office has spent at least $195,000 repairing older transport buses.

The 67 new vehicles were bought during the past two years, and they cost at least $2.1 million, according to the Sheriff's Office. The inventory includes 25 Crown Victoria patrol cars, 23 sport-utility vehicles, 14 sedans for detectives and five compact cars.

In the past, orders were made in the fall when manufacturers made police vehicles, and they were delivered in January or February. Bohn said the county had previously bought cars when finances were better because it made sense to have back-up vehicles on hand instead of waiting months for replacement vehicles.

Reach the reporter at or 602-444-8478.

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