Lois Ahrens: Questions police chief’s response to Arizona training

Sunday, September 10, 2017
Questions response by chief on police training

I read this response from Northampton Police Chief Jody Kasper in the Aug. 29 Gazette (“Training at Sheriff Joe’s jail”): “That’s where they send everyone,” said Kasper, who said she had not been aware of the connection between the drug recognition expert training site in Maricopa County, Arizona, and controversial former sheriff Joe Arpaio. “We put them in the DRE class and that’s where the DRE class sends people.”

I do not know which is worse, that she did know and sent Northampton police to Arpaio’s jail to be trained, or that she didn’t know.

Here are three quotes from the article titled “Joe Arpaio’s prison was a circus of cruelty. Now his values are spreading” written by Paul Mason and published Aug. 28 in The Guardian.

“The jail was a tent camp: olive-green military canvas with the sides pulled up, dating from the Korean War. The prisoners — women were in a separate compound — all wore black and white striped overalls and, famously, bright pink underwear.”

“The physical unpleasantness was plain to see. Our car dashboard told us the outside temperature was 114F (45.5C). The prisoners lay slumped, listless in the suffocating heat. The guard escorting us said: ‘Everything is done as cheap as possible. They get two meals a day: bologna (sausage) and cheap white bread. We, the guards, drink only out-of-date Gatorade for hydration.’ And he proudly showed us the date on the bottle he was swigging from. At the slightest unauthorized physical movement — such as shading your head from the sun under a pink towel on the way to the bathroom — the guard would bark some insulting instruction at the offender until they froze.”

“We did not see the solitary cells or the all-female chain gang — though Arpaio would have showed us if he’d had the time. The entire purpose of the hellhole he built, in steady defiance of federal laws and regulations, was to deter migration.”

Lois Ahrens


The writer is the founding director of the Real Cost of Prisons project, a national organization based in Northampton.