(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Photo: Ralph Freso/Getty Images

Who is Joe Arpaio? 8 things to know about the former Arizona sheriff

President Donald Trump has said that he is “seriously considering” a pardon for Joe Arpaio, a former Arizona sheriff who was recently convicted of criminal contempt for disregarding a federal judge’s order to stop traffic patrols targeting suspected undocumented immigrants.

» RELATED: Trump considers Arpaio pardon; critics call out president

In a recent interview with Fox News, Trump told reporters he may grant a pardon within the next couple, because Arpaio “doesn’t deserve to be treated this way.” 

“Is there anyone in local law enforcement who has done more to crack down on illegal immigration than Sheriff Joe? He has protected people from crimes and saved lives,” Trump said. “I hate to see what has happened to him.”

While Trump has called him “a great American patriot,” many have disagreed, accusing both Trump and Arpaio of racism. 

But this isn’t the first time Arpaio has made headlines. Here are 8 things to know about the official.

1. He served in the United States Army.

Born in Springfield, Massachusetts, Arpaio was raised by a single dad. His mother died while giving birth to him. As a teen, he worked in the family business before enlisting in the Army. He served for four years, taking a job as a medical official and later as a military policeman. 

2. He worked for the Drug Enforcement Administration for 25 years. 

After leaving the Army, he moved to Washington D.C. and then Las Vegas to be a cop. He held the Nevada position for six months before being appointed as a special agent by the Federal Bureau of Narcotic, which later merged with the DEA. Stationed in Argentina, Mexico and Turkey, he climbed the ladder and eventually became the head of the DEA’s Arizona branch. 

3. He served as an Arizona sheriff for 24 years. 

In 1992, he was elected as the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, where he served from 1993 to 2016. He lost his bid for re-election last year. 

4. He’s dubbed himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”

Arpaio has gained notoriety for his infamous policies including the use of the color pink. He required his inmates to be dressed in pink underwear. They also had to shower with pink towels and sleep on pink sheets. “Why give them a color they like,” he asked in a 2014 interview

His successor Sheriff Paul Penzone is working to reverse many of his practices including the use of pink, the outdoor Tent City Jail and other unconstitutional jail conditions. 

»RECOMMENDED VIDEO: The new sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, says he's closing the outdoor jail

The new sheriff in Maricopa County, Arizona, says he's closing the outdoor jail because it's not cost-effective or a crime deterrent.

5. He’s been accused of racially profiling Latinos.

A federal judge ruled in 2013 that Arpaio's officers racially profiled Latinos. But the sheriff refused to stop his immigration patrols, eventually leading to the criminal contempt of court case. It also contributed to his failed re-election bid last year.

6. He has been sued several times. 

The 85-year-old has been sued by at least 11 judges and country supervisors who’ve said Arpaio wrongfully accused them of corruption. While Arpaio lost the initial cases, which detailed the alleged crimes, the county settled each of the lawsuits filed by the officials targeted by Arpaio. The settlement costs totaled more than $3 million. 

7. He was skeptical about Barack Obama’s birth certificate.  

Arpaio launched an investigation in 2012 that remained open as late as of July 2016. He defended the investigation by saying people in his county had requested it.

8. Arpaio has been a Trump supporter.

Arpaio campaigned for Trump at rallies in Iowa, Nevada and Arizona, and he gave a speech at the Republican National Convention where he said Trump would prevent immigrants from coming into the country illegally. Trump has also invoked the former sheriff in his calls for tougher immigration enforcement and has advocated for tactics that made Arpaio a national figure.

» RELATED: Joe Arpaio's troubled legacy lingers despite his conviction

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

X