Sheriff Joe Arpaio will not be disciplining detectives accused of mishandling over 400 sex crime cases including hundreds involving children. The decision comes at the end of an internal investigation that lasted five years.
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s detectives and supervisors were cleared, and the case has been closed. MCSO Executive Chief Brian Sands has blamed flaws in an outdated case tracking system. Additionally, Sands cites lack of funding and “insufficient staffing” as the reason over 400 cases were overlooked.
As reported by ABC 15, an audit revealed that, in the period of two years, detectives in the Special Victims Unit failed to follow through with investigation of 432 sex crime cases. During that two years, there were a total of 532 crimes reported to the unit and only 100 were “properly worked.”
Many of the cases originated in El Mirage, Arizona. The city had a contract with the MCSO, which obligated them to investigate the sex crimes. Upon discovering that the cases had been mishandled for two years, El Mirage created their own city police department.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio acknowledged that detectives botched the sex crime cases and offered an apology during a news conference in 2011, stating:
“If there were any victims out there, I apologize to those victims. Sometimes in a large law enforcement agency, these sort of situations occur.”
In an attempt to resolve the mishandling of the cases, the MCSO conducted an audit and “reactivated and reworked” 432 cases. Of those cases 115 were determined to be unfounded, 19 were closed as the result of arrest and 67 were placed in the “Cold Case File.”
Over 200 cases were “exceptionally cleared” as they were unable to be prosecuted. In many cases, including dozens involving children, victims were unable to be located or were unwilling to cooperate. Many victims had simply moved from the area and witnesses were no longer available.
As reported by azcentral, final results of the investigation were released on Monday. Deputy Chief Brian Sands determined the following:
“The deficiencies identified … were not problems that stemmed from the conduct of one or a few individuals. Rather, I have determined that … the MCSO sex-crimes unit was inadequately resourced to complete its tasks. The systemic problem could not then, and cannot now, be properly addressed or corrected by disciplining a few individuals.”
Sands’ report concluded with measures that have been “taken to address shortcomings.” The measures include increasing staff, expanding training programs, and increased funding. Additionally, the department will work toward increased communication and cooperation with other agencies in the community.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio will not be disciplining any detectives involved in the mishandling of the sex crimes, many involving children. However, two employees resigned as a result of the investigation.