PHOENIX -- The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said Monday several people failed to investigate hundreds of cases involving possible sex abuse. Children were the victims in many of those cases, but the cases were ignored or mishandled.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office left the town of El Mirage in 2007, but the investigation into its time there is just now coming to a close. The sheriff's office found problems with several sex crimes cases in El Mirage.
That led to a countywide audit.
“The special victim's crimes didn't really have the depth of information that I'd asked for,” explained Capt. Steve Whitney, who was in charge of detectives at that time. “I started to look into that.”
Whitney says there were 432 cases, many of which included small children. They had to be re-opened because they were either improperly investigated or never investigated at all.
Whitney was joined by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan at a press conference to discuss the problems and the nearly complete internal investigation.
They said there were 19 arrests made out of the 432 cases, but there was some disagreement when asked if there might have been more if the cases had been investigated in a timely manner.
“I think so yeah,” Whitney said. “I think more timely investigation might have had a better result.”
“You don’t know,” said Arpaio to Whitney.
“I don’t know for certain,” he said.
“If you’re talking about 500 and something and then the majority we did clear one way or the other,” Arpaio interrupted.
“That’s why this is a very complicated issue,” Sheridan said.
Investigators don't know if anyone was re-victimized due to inaction, but Sheridan said their investigations lead them to believe that didn’t happen. In dozens of the cases, they were unable to find the victims or they refused to file charges.
An internal investigation is wrapping up this week after several years.
“I'm not making excuses,” said Sheridan. “It was something that was delayed, it shouldn't have been, but it was.”
“We have made some changes and we have some disciplinary action possible in progress,” Arpaio said. “Some of these detectives involved in these types of crimes have left our office and they have joined other police departments.”
Some political enemies called for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's resignation citing the slow investigation and the terrible nature of the alleged crimes. It was a suggestion he shrugged off.
“My message to him is I'm not going anywhere,” Arpaio said.