The two were acquaintances and had been at the friend’s house with several other teens. No doubt, this girl assumed she was safe.
But without warning and in the middle of the street, the boy tackled the girl to the ground.
She was able to fight him off and run away and hide behind a mobile home. But he found her. Though she tried to fight him off again, though she tried to scream, he overpowered her, covered her mouth, pulled down her pants and raped her.
Somehow, the girl managed to get herself back home and tell her mother what had happened. Her mom did what most parents would do in this situation and called the police.
When the Sheriff’s deputy arrived, he did exactly what he should have done. He interviewed the girl, he took her clothes and impounded them for evidence, he directed her to a hospital, he went to the scene of the crime, he called his sergeant, and he forwarded his report to MCSO’s Special Victims Unit.
What happened after that remains a mystery. Months later, after the city of El Mirage ended its contract with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office because of citizen complaints over slow response times, dropped calls and a general feeling that they were unsafe, the new El Mirage Police Department began uncovering dozens of sex crimes cases that were reported but never fully investigated. The case of this 14-year-old girl was one of them.
As explained in the book “If There Were Any Victims…,” former El Mirage Assistant Police Chief Bill Louis noted that there was no evidence that the Special Victims Unit ever followed up on this case. Instead, the case was listed as “exceptionally cleared.”
It’s important to understand the term, “exceptionally cleared.” As explained by Chief Louis, “A case can only be ‘exceptionally cleared’ if elements beyond law enforcement’s control prevent the agency from arresting and charging the offender. Examples include the death of the suspect before he could be charged or a victim’s refusal to cooperate with prosecution after the suspect has been positively identified.”
Not taking the time to follow up on an investigation is not a reason to close or exceptionally clear a case. When a case is “exceptionally cleared,” it’s treated as a solved crime.
The El Mirage Police Department found dozens and dozens of rape and child molestation cases and even murder investigations that were inappropriately classified by MCSO. In many of these cases, the perpetrators were caregivers whose identities were known and reported to the Sheriff’s office. A deputy or police officer would file a report then forward it on to the Special Victims Unit. In the cases highlighted in Louis’ book, that’s where the investigations would end: at the desk of SVU.
So was this a result of a few lazy SVU detectives at MCSO? No.
Was Sheriff Arpaio unaware of what was happening in his Special Victims Unit? No again.
Most of the neglected sex crimes cases were a result of staffing shortages… intentional staffing shortages. As mentioned in Louis’ book, during the height of the sex crimes scandal, Sheriff Arpaio was pulling detectives out of SVU to work on his anti-corruption and conspiracy squads. Those were the squads that went after Arpaio and Andy Thomas’ enemies such as county supervisors, judges, politicians, and newspaper editors.
At one point SVU was down to four detectives. That’s four detectives for the entire county. Four detectives to handle serious felonies such as rapes and murders. Four detectives in a unit that Louis noted should have closer to 14.
Detectives complained to supervisors; the command staff was warned about the backlog. But that didn’t seem to matter.
When Louis and other officers at El Mirage PD tried to obtain additional information about the uninvestigated cases from MCSO’s command staff, their requests were either ignored or they were told there was no information to give. A detailed memo (found here) was delivered to Sheriff Arpaio in 2008 outlining the mishandled and inappropriately classified cases, which included botched murder investigations.
Years later, after these mishandled cases caught the attention of national media, Sheriff Arpaio issued an apology to the victims. He said he was sorry, “IF there were any victims.”
Yes, Sheriff, there were victims. Louis wrote about 31 of those victims, but all told, there were 432 from across Maricopa County.
Think about that for a moment. 432 victims. 432 stories like the one listed above.
It’s difficult to believe that any law enforcement agency would ignore hundreds of sex crimes against children. But what’s more troubling is that these crimes were ignored in favor of staged press conferences and bogus political investigations. Publicity took precedence over safety.
And it happened right here, in our county.
Most likely, your child was not among the victims. But imagine if she was. Wouldn’t you want justice for your child? Would you not be screaming from the rooftops if the person in charge put more value on the investigation of the President’s birth certificate than on your child’s safety?
I know I would. I’d want the entire world to know the truth, and I’d start with other parents because parents who knew would never vote for Joe Arpaio.