“Let us pause for a moment to mark the loss of a fierce and tireless public servant: Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., who so robustly devoted himself to terrorizing immigrants that he was eventually convicted of contempt of court and would have lived out his twilight years with a well-deserved criminal record if President Trump, a staunch admirer of Mr. Arpaio’s bare-knuckle approach to law enforcement, had not granted him a pardon,” writes Michelle Cottle, a member of the New York Times editorial board.
“To clarify, Mr. Arpaio the man has not passed. As of Tuesday, he was still very much alive and kicking, the proto-Trumpian embodiment of fearmongering ethnonationalism. Mr. Arpaio’s dream of returning to elective office, however, has been dealt what is most likely a fatal blow by his loss in Arizona’s Republican primary for the Senate. Cast aside and left to wallow in the knowledge that his moment has passed, he has a fitting end to the public life of a true American villain.
“This defeat came as a surprise to no one. In the closing weeks of the race, his campaign had begun melting down. His staff was in chaos, and polls showed him trailing both Representative Martha McSally, Tuesday’s victor, and Kelli Ward, an anti-immigration firebrand also courting the right wing of the party.
“As ‘America’s toughest sheriff,’ as Mr. Arpaio liked to call himself, prepares to ride off into the sunset, it bears recalling that he was so much more than a run-of-the-mill immigrant basher. His 24-year reign of terror was medieval in its brutality. In addition to conducting racial profiling on a mass scale and terrorizing immigrant neighborhoods with gratuitous raids and traffic stops and detentions, he oversaw a jail where mistreatment of inmates was the stuff of legend. Abuses ranged from the humiliating to the lethal. He brought back chain gangs. He forced prisoners to wear pink underwear. He set up an outdoor ‘tent city,’ which he once referred to as a ‘concentration camp,’ to hold the overflow of prisoners. Inmates were beaten, fed rancid food, denied medical care (this included pregnant women) and, in at least one case, left battered on the floor to die.
“Indeed, many prisoners died in Mr. Arpaio’s jail — at an alarming clip. The number of inmates who hanged themselves in his facilities was far higher than in jails elsewhere in the country. More disturbing still, nearly half of all inmate deaths on his watch were never explained. Over the years, the county paid out tens of millions in wrongful death and injury settlements.”
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