You probably know him as "America's Toughest Sheriff", a name given to him by the media years ago. It's a name he certainly has earned as the head of the nation's fourth largest Sheriff's Office. But even before he became Sheriff in 1993, Sheriff Joe Arpaio was one tough law man.
After serving in the Army for three years from 1950 to 1953, Arpaio went on to build a federal law enforcement career and a reputation for fighting drug trafficking around the world. From the United States to Mexico to Turkey to the Middle East to Central and South America, Arpaio was an expert in undercover work establishing a stellar record of infiltrating drug organizations and arresting drug offenders. His expertise led him to management positions with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the United States and around the world. He concluded his remarkable career as head of the DEA for Arizona.
In 1992, building on his expertise as a former police officer in Washington D.C. and Las Vegas, and as a top federal law enforcement official, Arpaio successfully campaigned to become the Sheriff of Maricopa County. He won the election in 1992. Four years later, in 1996, after his policies had earned him unprecedented praise and an 85% public approval rating, no one even ran against him when he sought a second term as Sheriff.
After 42 years of law enforcement experience, Arpaio's strength is in his ability to know what the public wants. "As Sheriff, I serve the public. The public is my boss", are statements often made by Sheriff Arpaio. And in serving the public, Arpaio has done many unique things as Sheriff.
On August 3, 1993, he started the nation's largest Tent City for convicted inmates. Over 2000 convicted men and women serve their sentences in a canvas incarceration compound. It is a remarkable success story and has garnered the attention of government officials and media worldwide. The same is true for his chain gangs which work six days a week contributing thousands of dollars of free labor to the community. The male chain gang and the world's first ever female chain gang clean streets, paint over graffiti, and bury the indigent in the county cemetery.
Equally impressive are the Sheriff's get tough policies. Arpaio doesn't believe in coddling criminals, frequently saying that jails should not be country clubs. He banned smoking, coffee, pornographic magazines, movies and unrestricted television in all jails. He has the cheapest meals in the country too. The average inmate meal costs under 20 cents.
Arpaio also has launched innovative rehabilitation programs like "Hard Knocks High ", the only accredited high school in an American jail. His ALPHA program teaches inmates to turn away from drugs. It is one of his proudest accomplishments. A high percentage of ALPHA graduates leave his jail clean and sober and rarely, if ever, return to incarceration.
As for his deputies, Arpaio has increased salaries, encouraged education by providing incentive pay, improved equipment and the fleet, and has elevated this office to a full-service, state-of-the-art world renowned law enforcement agency. Also under Arpaio, the posse has grown to 3200 members, the nation's largest volunteer posse. These men and women, always are a great help to deputies, help in search and rescue and other traditional police work as well as in special operations like round-ups of deadbeat parents, fighting prostitution in the valley's so-called red light district, and patrolling malls and shops during holidays. The posse's contribution is invaluable and essentially free to taxpayers.
Arpaio and his wife, Ava, have been married 47 years. They have two children and three grandchildren who also reside in the Phoenix area.