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County Supervisors Approve Arpaio’s Controversial Consultant Choice

(KJZZ file photo)
Sheriff Joe Arpaio

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved funding on Tuesday for Sheriff Joe Arpaio to hire an outside consultant. It’s to help comply with a judge’s order in the racial profiling case against the Sheriff’s Office, but some critics have concerns about the consultant’s own record with minorities.

When U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ordered sweeping changes at the Sheriff’s office after finding the agency discriminated against Latinos, the list of changes included yearly internal audits of the agency’s compliance.

On Tuesday, the Sheriff’s Office asked the county board to approve $155,535 to hire an outside consultant to do that audit. The agency selected a firm run by former New York police commissioner Howard Safir for the job. But Safir is not a new name in this legal drama. He was one of the Sheriff’s picks to be the court-appointed monitor, but was not chosen by the judge.

The plaintiffs in the case had argued Safir was an inappropriate candidate due to what they said was a tenure marred by tension with minorities. Last year, Safir penned an editorial criticizing a judge’s ruling that blocked New York’s controversial stop and frisk policy. 

“There had been many documents submitted that as police commissioner in New York he had a program that minorities felt racially profiled,” said County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, the only member of the board who voted against hiring Safir as a Sheriff’s Office consultant.

Wilcox said she had concerns that Safir might somehow conflict with the court-appointed monitor in the case, Robert Warshaw. She also said the perception of this hire in the community is “horrible.”

“Now the perception is that someone who has come on board has a racial profiling background,” Wilcox said.

Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Chief Scott Freeman told the board of supervisors that Safir’s outfit was essentially the only choice for the contract.

“This firm was the only group that bid on it,” Freeman said.

The other four members of the board approved the funding to hire Safir’s firm, VRI Technologies. The contract has the possibility to be renewed four times. 

Jude Joffe-Block was a senior field correspondent at KJZZ from 2010 to 2017.