He is one of Fountain Hills’ most recognizable citizens. He held the job of Maricopa County Sheriff for more than two decades and had a career that began patrolling a beat in Washington, D.C. and heading international offices for the federal DEA.
Now, at 88 years of age, Joe Arpaio is releasing a new book on his life of adventure and intrigue during his almost 70 years in law enforcement.
“Sheriff Joe Arpaio, An American Legend,” is written with David Thomas Roberts, with a foreword by Ted Nugent.
“My American dream and your American dream are only available and worth jack squat because of…gung-ho sheep dogs like the great Sheriff Joe Arpaio and all the warriors like him on the not-so-mean streets of America,” Nugent writes. “Thank you, Sheriff Joe. We, the people of the United States of America, salute you and thank you for your lifetime of warrior heroism.”
The book outlines Arpaio’s law enforcement journey that began right out of the Army following the Korean War. The thread of his career leads from the streets of D.C. to Las Vegas, Chicago, then back to Washington as a federal agent. He said that, while in Las Vegas, he once arrested Elvis Presley for speeding more than 100 miles per hour on a motorcycle.
“I arrested Elvis and took him to the police station, but decided not to book him,” Arpaio said.
He went to work for the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN) while in Chicago, the forerunner to the DEA.
“My highly successful arrest record was a significant contributor to being considered and ultimately hired as a federal agent, even then considered a very fast track to that position,” Arpaio said.
He was assigned to investigate the Mafia; he believes because of his Italian heritage. He was involved in undercover work and, after a successful four years, Arpaio was promoted to head the FBN office in Istanbul, Turkey, a hotbed of opium and heroin traffic.
“They wanted me to infiltrate what became an international crime ring that attracted Hollywood producers to make a major motion picture,” Arpaio said.
While the “French Connection” was sending drugs through France to New York in the United States, Arpaio said he was busy infiltrating the smuggling operations in Turkey.
“Very little, if any, of the movie plot actually credited the work done undercover by me and the Turkish police that led to the arrest of the crime bosses and dealers involved on three continents,” Arpaio said.
On that assignment, Arpaio traveled the Middle East as well as Syria and Lebanon.
In 1964, Arpaio took a new assignment along the U.S./Mexico border and moved to San Antonio, Texas. That led to his further assignment to Mexico City and helped establish his credentials in border issues.
While in Mexico City, Arpaio was overseer of agency operations in Mexico, Central and South America.
When Arpaio retired from the DEA after 24 years as an agent, he said he never expected to return to law enforcement. He settled in Scottsdale and assisted his wife, Ava, with her travel business.
He decided to run for Maricopa County Sheriff in 1992 after a business disagreement with then Sheriff Tom Agnos and defeated him.
Much of Arpaio’s tenure as Sheriff is well documented and his book details some of the more controversial innovations he brought to the office, such as Tent City, the Posse, chain gangs and women in chain gangs.
He said he believes this made him something of a marked man with liberals in government and their legal representatives.
He said his investigation into the birth certificate of President Barack Obama, which Arpaio believes is a forgery, triggered most of his legal problems that led to his defeat at the polls in 2016.
“The fact that my programs were very popular in conservative and Republican circles certainly fanned those flames,” Arpaio said. “I was simply trying to do my job enforcing the law already on the books. To me, this wasn’t a political issue, but for them it became hyper-political.
“All of this would come into play during the ensuing and complex political witch hunt designed to remove me from office, inject fear into the Republicans, and to set a course that proved to be the playbook for the exact same type of coup attempt, with many of the same actors, used on President Trump.”
Arpaio was given a court order to stop his immigration sweeps and discontinue what is described as profiling of those of Mexican descent.
Judge Murray Snow determined that Arpaio had defied his court order and found him in contempt. Arpaio was found guilty in a bench trial by Federal Judge Susan Bolton, but before she sentenced him, Arpaio was pardoned by President Trump.
The release from the White House announcing the pardon states in part, “Throughout his time as sheriff, Arpaio continued his life’s work of protecting the public from the scourges of crime and illegal immigration. Sheriff Joe Arpaio is now 85 years old, and after more than 50 years of admirable service to our nation, he is a worthy candidate for a Presidential pardon.”