Sheriff Joe Arpaio accused of playing for the press

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by Jared Dillingham

Bio | Email | Follow: @JaredDillingham

azfamily.com

Posted on November 16, 2009 at 9:27 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 17 at 3:40 PM

PHOENIX — There are new allegations against Sheriff Joe Arpaio as he conducts another one of his controversial crime sweeps.

The sheriff is targeting smugglers; but Arpaio himself is the target of critics who say this time he's really just playing for the press.

The sheriff shot down those claims, saying he’s dealing with increasingly sly, innovative smugglers, and this operation — targeting smugglers on highways — is needed.

But protesters accuse Sheriff Arpaio of staging the latest crime sweep for a national TV crew.

"This is nothing but grandstanding for national media who was asked to stay so they could witness a sweep,” said protester Lydia Guzman.

The sheriff's response?

"Network? What network? What is it? ABC? Oh, so I arranged this because ABC is here? The answer is no,” he said. “We happened to be here and they're smart enough to know they might want to film the sheriff."

Either way, with the national press here, the sheriff is being cautious. Arpaio just endured a wave of criticism for saying his deputies pull over people who look like they just came from Mexico. So in this latest operation, the sheriff says his deputies are looking for smugglers' trucks, but won't say what makes a truck or its driver suspicious.

"You know what? I got a new policy,” he said “I’m not going into the criteria we use."

The sheriff says it has nothing to do with claims of racial profiling.

"I'm not going to talk about our investigative techniques,” he said.

And when a deputy started to answer the question about who or what they're looking for, the sheriff stepped in.

"Suspicious activity with the drivers,” Deputy Lindsay Smith said. “We make them based on …”

"Hold on,” Arpaio interrupted. “She didn’t know my comments. We're not going to get into criteria."

Whatever the criteria, Sheriff Arpaio says even if they don't arrest any smugglers in this operation, he hopes it serves as a deterrent.

This is the 13th crime suppression operation. On Monday 29 people were taken into custody. Of those 29 people, 18 were arrested for human smuggling. Of the 29 arrested, 21 were suspected of being illegal aliens. The operation continues through the day Tuesday.

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