Friday, August 19, 2011

Questions and Answers with Lieutenant Mike Stauffer

The Phoenix New Times was kind enough to hold a town hall "Ask & Answer" session where both Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his Republican primary challenger Scottsdale Police Lieutenant Mike Stauffer were invited to participate.  Only Mr. Stauffer accepted the invitation to interact directly with the readers of The Phoenix New Times and below are my questions to him and his answers.

It should be noted that I am awaiting clarification on one answer below from the Stauffer Campaign and will update this post when I receive it.

Phoenix Justice: Good Morning Mr. Stauffer,

I remember from a New Times interview with you that you want the MCSO to refocus on the unincorporated areas of Maricopa County and to leave the various cities to their respective police forces.  With this refocusing, will that allow MCSO to downsize its staffing levels, thus relieving some stress on the county's budget?

Also, if elected, do you plan on getting rid of the Sheriff's Posse and possibly create a professional MCSO reserve force?

Mike Stauffer: Phoenix Justice, thank you for the question: I will conduct a work load study of the MCSO districts and jail facilities to determine appropriate staffing levels that will reduce response times and allow for appropriate public safety operations and investigations. Appropriate staffing levels are important for the control of unnecessary expenditures in staffing.

I will retain the Sheriff’s Posse as they are an outstanding source for support of the mission of the MCSO. I will restructure the Posse so that there is a centralized command and control of the Posse. I will standardize their training and equipment as well. The Posse will be integrated into the command structure of MCSO and report directly to the Office of the Sheriff.

Phoenix Justice: Mr. Stauffer,

Thank you for answering my earlier question.

I consider "Tent City" to be an abomination created as a media ploy to project the image that Sheriff Arpaio is the "toughest sheriff".  I also know that to state publicly that one wishes to close "Tent City" to be the death knell for anyone wishing to become Sheriff.  I also know that in your previous interview with New Times that you had no plans to close "Tent City".  My question is, why not close this concentration camp that serves no real or ethical purpose in the incarceration of convicted criminals?

Furthermore, do you intend to improve the conditions for those who are in the various jails in the MCSO system that are awaiting trial?

Mike Stauffer: Phoenix Justice:

You are welcome. In response to your most recent question: The original purpose for the tent city facility was to alleviate overcrowding at the various facilities without having to release inmates prematurely. It was also intended to be a money saving project.

Clearly, this facility is not saving money due to the numerous lawsuit payouts for inhumane conditions.

I will have to assess the continued need for this facility as I understand the MCSO inmate population has been on the decline for a number of years.

I also see a purpose to maintaining a more secure and modernized version of a military-camp style facility for first-time and low risk classified inmates. I believe that this segment of the inmate population will be more likely to benefit from this type of incarceration than some of the more hardened repeat offenders.

Phoenix Justice: Mr. Stauffer,

For years Sheriff Arpaio has garnered both positive and negative press attention regarding his treatment of pre-trial detainees, especially in regards to food (green bologna).  Do you plan on continuing the current practices in regards to pre-trial detainees?

Mike Stauffer: Phoenix Justice:

Good question. The U.S. Constitution guarantees the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. It also provides guarantees of fair, equal, and humane treatment for those who are incarcerated. I will bring the MCSO jail facilities up to constitutional standards of treatment. The serving of spoiled food to inmates is not in keeping with our American standards of treatment. Improper treatment also has led to the filing of over 6000 lawsuits by inmates and their families against the MCSO. I will insure that pre-trial inmates are segregated from those who have already been sentenced. I will improve the classification of inmate threat levels to insure the safety of our detention officers, the inmates, and the public.

Phoenix Justice: Sheriff Arpaio has had a very adversarial relationship with the Board of Supervisors, especially when dealing with funding for the MCSO.  Often times, when Sheriff Arpaio is "blocked" by the BoS, he has gone to his allies in the Legislature.  Would you continue such an adversarial relationship with the BoS and would you run to the Legislature to do end runs around the BoS?

Mike Stauffer: Phoenix Justice:

Thanks for this question as well. Remember that the sheriff is also an elected official in Maricopa County and is a co-equal officer of the county with the Board of Supervisors. The Board of Supervisors is responsible for the budget of the county and provides the budget to the sheriff's office. From there, the sheriff is responsible for the appropriation of funds to run the office within the confines of the law.  Arpaio has not done any "end arounds" so much as he has broken state procurement laws. I will foster a cooperative, mutually productive relationship with the Board, keeping the common goal of the economic well-being of the county in mind.

(I am awaiting clarification on this answer as there were different attempts in the Legislature this year to strip the Board of Supervisors of their oversight authority of the MCSO.)

Phoenix Justice: Mr. Stauffer,

Would you support the creation of a Citizen Review Board to do away with "conflicts of interest" dealing with possible wrongdoing within the MCSO?

Mike Stauffer: Phoenix Justice:

As I stated in an earlier response, I will foster an open, transparent atmosphere for the MCSO. Once this new philosophy is implemented, I would ask for some time for it to take hold before assessing the need for a citizen review board. Thanks for your question.

I want to thank Mr. Stauffer for taking the time yesterday to answer all of my questions and the questions of the other readers of The Phoenix New Times.  It is too bad that Sheriff Arpaio chose to not accept the invitation to interact with the voters of Maricopa County.  Then again, it seems to be par for the course.

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