PHOENIX – Super Bowl celebs, beware.
Sheriff Joe’s sign is flashing “Vacancy” above his outdoor jail, and one certainly gets the impression that America’s toughest lawman or its biggest publicity hound – take your pick – wouldn’t mind locking up someone famous before the week is out.
“I hear Paris Hilton is going to be in town,” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio said. “She better behave herself. We’ll put her in one of our female tents and get her on one of our female chain gangs.”
Just to eliminate any confusion, he’s not talking about the chains used for measuring first downs on Super Bowl Sunday. These are the kind that bind together inmates before they are sent out to pick up trash along a busy highway, paint over graffiti or bury the indigent in the county cemetery.
Even though I hail from the East Coast, I’ve heard plenty about this county’s swashbuckling, 75-year-old version of Wyatt Earp. I certainly couldn’t resist the chance to get a look at Arpaio’s most acclaimed or notorious creation (either one applies):
The Tent City Jail.
The sheriff department’s Web site openly advertises tours of the “internationally famous” facility in southwest Phoenix, and a couple of phone calls later I’ve got a 10 a.m. time to go behind the 15-foot-high fence, topped by curly strips of razor wire.
Accompanied by a photographer, we are shown the sign that greets visitors as soon as they step through the gate: “The next time you want to complain about Tent City, STOP! Instead, think how hard life is for our soldiers in Iraq.”
Another menacing sign warns illegal aliens – another of Arpaio’s high-profile targets – that they are banned from visiting anyone at the jail, or they risk winding up here themselves.
Our guide, sheriff’s Sgt. Rhealea Scheffner, shows us a sample of the spartan meals that inmates get twice a day, costing the taxpayers all of 43 cents. No three square meals in Sheriff Joe’s jail. Heck, the animals he takes in – abused cats and dogs, along with pigs, horses and even a turtle – get better food than the inmates.
Brunch is a plastic bag with a roll, bologna, two small oranges and two packs of “meat sticks.” Dinner is a hot meal, but the only thing I can make out is the cinnamon bun for desert. Even one of the guards quips, “There’s some sort of slop in the middle.”
I try to stay positive: Heck, it would only take a few weeks in this place to lose those 20 extra pounds I’m carrying around.
Finally, it’s time to see those tents.
Working our way to the outer yard, we emerge into the sunlight on a rather cool morning. There they are: surplus, olive-green military tents held up by now-permanent poles, more than a dozen metal bunk beds lined up side-by-side under each covering.
During the summer, when temperatures soar past 38 C in the desert, a large fan hanging from the ceiling is the only relief. And what about now, when temperatures can dip below zero at night?
Well, each inmate is allowed five blankets to keep warm, and more if they need them. But there are no heaters.
“It’s not as bad as I thought it would be,” said Kevin Kaye, who’s two months into a four-month sentence for parole violation. “It’s just cold at night. It was really cold last night with the wind blowing in. Other than that, it’s like a little city without the girls.”
Some inmates are still buried under their pile of blankets, trying to get some sleep after working a 10-hour shift the night before. Those who work during the day are already up, strolling around the gravel-covered yard.
One man with a sour look drags a rake up and down between the tents – his punishment for getting caught with a cigarette. More serious offenders wind up in lockdown: 23 hours a day spent alone in an indoor cell.
The inmates all wear black-and-white striped outfits, but their undergarments – socks, underwear, thermal shirts – are dyed pink.
Arpaio claims it cuts down on inmates trying to swipe the garments for use on the outside, but it comes across as just another publicity stunt.
The sheriff treats his critics with the same disdain he might have for a drunken driver. He doesn’t answer to any government agency, only the voters, who put him in office in 1992 and have re-elected him three times since.
They don’t seem to have any problem with the job he’s doing, no matter what the civil libertarians might say.
“I report to the people,” Arpaio said. “How come I’ve survived all these years? I’m the toughest sheriff, so a lot of people have tried to shoot me down to get their name in the paper. But I’m not going to change my policies.”
There are no TVs in the yard, of course, but inmates will be allowed to watch the Super Bowl inside on Sunday, as long as they’ve stayed out of trouble and followed the numerous rules.
(One example: Shirts must be tucked in at all times, which prompts me to look nervously at my own get-up, the black shirt hanging loosely OVER my tan slacks. Fortunately, the guards give me a pass.)
If Xavier Martinez can stay out of trouble for a few more days, he’ll be home in time to watch the Super Bowl. The Phoenix man is scheduled to be released Sunday morning after serving a few days for parole violation.
“Basketball is my favourite sport,” Martinez said. “But I’ll watch the Super Bowl. I’ll be pulling for the Patriots.”
If he gets in trouble again, there’s always a bed waiting for him at Tent City. Arpaio, in another of the publicity stunts, hung a flashing “Vacancy” sign – akin to something one might find at a Motel 6 – atop the tallest guard tower.
Says Scheffner: “There’s always room at the inn.”
Good for the officer. He did what he had to do, even though it wasn’t easy If the officer hadn’t arrested the stepson, they would have accused him of favoritism. Can’t win for losing.
A Wilson police officer arrests his own stepson last week, but now the department’s taking a lot of flack. The police chief says following the arrest, the department received complaints because a stepfather arrested his own stepson. KTEN’s Hailee Holliday reports.
Police Chief, Felix Hernandez, says despite the complaints, he stands by his officer’s decision. He says it goes to show, no one is above the law.
The controversy was sparked when officer, Ron Doughty, found drug paraphernalia and a marijuana growing kit in his stepson’s room. Doughty says he previously warned his stepson not to bring drugs into the house; but when he did, doughty took action as part of Wilson’s zero tolerance policy.
Police Chief, Felix Hernandez, says, “I’ve had to arrest my own stepson twice. His mother wasn’t very happy, but she knew that I took an oath and we couldn’t have the double standards like we keep talking about.”
20-year-old, Josh Purser, is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, marijuana and endeavoring to manufacture marijuana.
He is currently out on bond.
Chief Hernandez says the situation is unfortunate, but it shows there are no double standards in his department.
Hailee Holliday, KTEN News
It probably would have been more romantic had they not mentioned that insurance stuff…LOL! Best of luck to the both of them.
SEATTLE — It wasn’t how they expected to get married, Tami Canfield in jeans, sweater and a veil and Earl Romig in sweats, T-shirt and a walker.
Romig, a 26-year-old Grant County sheriff’s deputy, was shot in the back while coyote hunting on Jan. 10. A man who says he thought Romig was a coyote, 38-year-old Robbie Jo Marcher of Moses Lake, has been charged with assault and unlawful possession of a firearm.
Romig is in rehab at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. He and his 20-year-old bride moved up their wedding to last Sunday so he could get extra insurance coverage. She works as an administrative assistant.
Canfield says they hadn’t pictured the wedding that way, but because he survived the shooting, “it made it such a more special experience.”
They plan another ceremony in June.
Officers and commanders in some of the city’s high-crime areas were enthusiastic yesterday about Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey’s crime-fighting strategy to put a heavy emphasis on strengthened district patrol.
They also gave the boss big points for inviting the entire department to the Wachovia Center, where hundreds heard about it directly from him and Mayor Nutter.
“It was a good start,” said 35th District Officer Vincenzo LaSpina, who patrols parts of Olney, Germantown and Mount Airy. On a busy weekend night, he said, he might respond to 25 calls.
Many who attended the presentation said they had confidence the mayor would make sure the commissioner had the resources he needed. Others noted Ramsey said the right things but questioned whether financial support would follow to actually make significant changes.
LaSpina said that if the commissioner assigned more officers to the 35th District, more time could be spent on foot or bike to allow officers to know the community better, a goal Ramsey has set across the city.
“Whatever they want us to do, I’m ready to do. If he wants foot patrols, I’ll do foot patrols,” LaSpina said, adding that it would be possible only with more officers.
Others said Ramsey’s plan boosted morale for the department of 6,624, a force that shrank during much of the Street administration while violent crime increased.
Last year, several hundred new officers modestly replenished the force. The number of arrests increased, violent crime dropped an average of 8 percent citywide, and some of the high-crime areas Ramsey is targeting saw double-digit drops.
Commanders predict more drops if Ramsey gets his way.
“I’ve got an aggressive squad that wants to do the job — there’s just not enough of them,” said Lt. Joe Spera of the 39th District in North Philadelphia and East Falls. “As soon as he said we’re not going to call anything an operation, I was happy. He wants people in patrol, which we need, and he plans to keep them here.”
Capt. Daniel MacDonald of the 12th District in Southwest Philadelphia saw violent crime go down 12 percent last year in his area and was pleased to learn he would be getting more resources.
“It’s the stuff we wanted to hear,” MacDonald said.
Violent crime has fallen 29 percent this month compared with January 2007, MacDonald said.
“My guys are out there doing the job and working hard,” MacDonald said, adding that crime would continue to go down under the new plan.
Others said street officers were upbeat that Ramsey had recognized the importance of their jobs as the first ones to respond to a scene and communicate with the public.
“We have to reestablish that relationship with people,” said 12th District Officer Tonetta Dawson. “I think this will work as long as everyone works together.”
Northwest Inspector Joseph Sullivan, who oversees three of the high-crime districts identified in the plans, said Ramsey’s presentation “invigorated” veteran commanders who met with the commissioner as he penned the new strategy.
“He listened to the suggestions and incorporated them into the plan,” Sullivan said. “It’s the police officers and lower-level commanders who will make this a success.”
As Tara Conlon was walking through the doors of the Multnomah County Courthouse on Dec. 28, she collapsed. She stopped breathing. Her heart soon gave out, too.
The 34-year-old bank supervisor didn’t know it, but she has an irregular-heartbeat condition that caused her heart to stop.
Luckily for her, a Multnomah County sheriff’s deputy and a criminal defense attorney who were paramedics in prior careers happened to be nearby. Deputy Adam Levin, who works in the courthouse, first saw Conlon on her hands and knees, struggling to breathe. She had thrown up.
“She was blue,” said Levin, 36Just then, attorney Russell Barnett stopped to help. He realized in a few seconds that Levin had similar expertise.
“I made reference to some very technical breathing term,” said Barnett, 45. “I said, ‘Looks like Cheyne-Stokes respiration. And he said ‘Yeah, with perioral cyanosis. And we both looked at each other like, ‘Yeah, we both know what we’re talking about here.’ “
Levin, who’d been a paramedic for most of the 1990s in San Diego, cleared Conlon’s airway. Barnett, who’d worked as a paramedic in Austin, Texas, for most of the 1980s, held her on her side, then searched Conlon’s purse for medications that could have caused the episode.
Levin rubbed Conlon’s sternum, hoping to elicit a response to the discomfort it creates. He got nothing –Conlon was in cardiac arrest.
Just as Levin began the first few thrusts of chest compressions, Portland firefighters arrived and shocked Conlon back to life. In all, the deputy-attorney pair guess they worked on Conlon for three to five minutes before professional help arrived.
Both men remember people walking into the courthouse, life as usual, even as they worked on Conlon.
“People were stepping over us,” Levin said.
The foreclosure auction that Conlon had planned to attend continued on the front steps, with the auctioneer shouting out bids. The scene reminded Barnett of the time years ago when he was doing CPR at a supermarket and a shopper asked his co-worker how much the asparagus was.
Conlon spent the next four days at OHSU Hospital, where she had a defibrillator installed. Conlon has since learned her condition has a name –long QT syndrome, which doctors tell her is probably genetic.
The Milwaukie resident has spent all of January at home, regaining strength. She plans to return to work Monday –but only for two hours a day at first, doctor’s orders.
“I’ve never been so excited to go back to work,” Conlon said. She works for OnPoint Community Credit Union at Montgomery Park.
Conlon, who is engaged to be married, is thankful to Levin, Barnett, the Portland firefighters, the hospital staff and everyone down the line who made her recovery possible.
Conlon’s mother has written Levin and Barnett thank-you cards, but Conlon says a proper visit is in order to thank the first strangers who stepped in.
“To be honest, I haven’t been able to thank them,” she said. “I don’t know what I’ll say. I’ll probably start bawling.”
AUSTIN – Austin Police have released the dash-cam video of officers chasing a loose bull through Northwest Austin.