Howdy, Sheriff

5 features on modern day lawmen
5 stories

Roughly 13,000 Americans have signed a new online petition demanding the resignation of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Fox News reports. It's no wonder. His Maricopa County, Arizona department has repeatedly arrested Latinos illegally, abused them in the county jails and failed to investigate hundreds of sexual assaults, or so said Justice Department after a three-year civil rights investigation. And that was just the latest in a long series of allegations that the Arizona lawman abuses the inmates in his custody.

Joshuah Bearman profiled him back in 2007. "The papers call him 'Crazy Joe,' and his staff calls him Sheriff Joe, but Joe likes to call himself “the toughest sheriff in America," he writes. "Vast, burgeoning Phoenix is in Maricopa County, and since 1992, Sheriff Joe has run the country’s fourth largest jail system with an iron and often eccentric hand, supervising a large volunteer posse, reviving chain gangs, housing sentenced inmates in tents, and making everyone wear pink underwear beneath old-time black- and-white-striped uniforms. Some people call Sheriff Joe’s myriad jails — Fourth Avenue, Lower Buckeye, Estrella and Tent City — the Alcatraz of Arizona."

Robert Draper has the story of another lawman gone bad. "Brig Marmolejo was different, or at least he had been. He won office in 1976 with law-and-order rhetoric and a record to back it up. His pledge to the voters of Hidalgo County was that he would not be only tough but pure: 'I will not seek favor with any group, and I will enforce the law equally when and where required.' For several years, Marmolejo lived up to that pledge when so many others could not. He was an exception, the rare Valley official who seemed capable of honesty," he writes. "But by this summer, Brig Marmolejo had become the latest in a series of Valley public figures to be accused of federal crimes."

Helen Thorpe found a similar tale in a different place. "His father battled the political bosses of Starr County, but he became one. For seventeen years, Sheriff Eugenio Falcón ruled his bailiwick," she wrote, "until the lure of easy money brought him down."

Thankfully there are plenty of other lawmen in America with less compromised records. John Tayman writes about one of them, and the unusual problem he was forced to solve. "Harry Lee, 63, is the longtime sheriff of Jefferson Parish, a long, narrow county a few minutes west of New Orleans that runs from Lake Pontchartrain to the Gulf of Mexico," he explains. "I'm in Lee's Metarie office because of an animal he's been hunting recently, although I fail to find this particular specimen on site. Word has it that Jefferson Parish is under invasion from many thousands of large, furred, burrowing aquatic rodents known as nutrias, which are said to be inflicting millions of dollars of damage on the levees and drainage canals that help keep the whole thing from going underwater."

The Sheriff Who Went to Pot

Hidalgo count’s top cop, Brig Marmolejo, was a champion of law and order—until Mexican drug smugglers made him an offer that even he couldn’t refuse.

Dec 1994
From the Web

Pursuit of Habeas

What Bush learned from the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Sep 2008

The Fall of the Last Patrón

His father battled the political bosses of Starr County, but he became one. For seventeen years, Sheriff Eugenio Falcón ruled his bailiwick—until the lure of easy money brought him down.

Jun 1998
By Editors Recommend

The Pest Solution

The story of a quiet Louisiana city suddenly beset by oversexed, orange-toothed rodents, and the good-old-boy Chinese-American sheriff who had no choice but to send his SWAT team after them.

Jun 1996

Jailhouse Rock

Singing for supper in the Alcatraz of Arizona.
May 2007