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Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Under Fire For Mishandled Sex-Crime Cases

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is under fire. The sheriff is known for his aggressive stance on immigration and his tough treatment of inmates.

Yesterday, two state lawmakers called for his ouster, but Arpaio stood his ground during a press conference.

The lawmakers were reacting to an AP report from Sunday that found his office had botched a series of sex-crime cases. Here's part of that AP report:

"Both cases were among more than 400 sex-crimes reported to Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office during a three-year period ending in 2007 — including dozens of alleged child molestations — that were inadequately investigated and in some instances were not worked at all, according to current and former police officers familiar with the cases.

"In El Mirage alone, where Arpaio's office was providing contract police services, officials discovered at least 32 reported child molestations — with victims as young as 2 years old — where the sheriff's office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases.

"Many of the victims, said a retired El Mirage police official who reviewed the files, were children of illegal immigrants."

The Arizona Republic reports that two state senators called a press conference, yesterday.

"We need to reinforce when someone in the United States reports any kind of sexual abuse to law enforcement, we will investigate it," Ruben Gallego, a Phoenix Democrat said. "This is not a Third World country, and Sheriff Joe should not be acting like he's running one. When there is a problem, law enforcement needs to recognize that there's a problem and deal with it."

The lawmakers also criticized the sheriff for concentrating illegal immigration instead of investigating these crimes.

Earlier in the week, Fox News reports, Arpaio apologized to the alleged victims. But according to the Phoenix New Times, in yesterday's conference, Arpaio took a more defensive stance. He announced he would hire an outside expert to investigate his handling of the cases, but also claimed the politicians calling for his resignation were simply using his name to get into the spotlight.

The Tucson Citizen reports:

"Arpaio, whose news conference was designed to highlight the arrest of two undocumented immigrants this week, each of whom had previously been deported at least 13 times, said critics would not deter his office's immigration-enforcement efforts."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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