West Bridgewater, Ma., police are accusing Maricopa County, Az., Sheriff Joe Arpaio of hindering an investigation of a string of prank calls to fast-food restaurants that result in young women being strip-searched, reports the Arizona Republic. Arpaio says West Bridgewater is unprofessionally holding key evidence.
The agencies are in a tug-of-war over surveillance tapes from an store in a third state where authorities suspect phone cards used to make the calls were purchased. In dozens of cases across the country, someone impersonating a police officer calls a fast-food restaurant and gives a vague description of a fictitious suspect. The male caller asks the restaurant manager to detain anyone matching the description and strip-search “the suspect” in a back room.
In March, a man pretending to be a police officer called an Arizona Taco Bell and told the store manager to strip-search a 17-year-old girl. Detectives from West Bridgewater subpoenaed the surveillance tapes and refuse to release them to Arpaio for fear he’ll play them on Good Morning America. Arpaio says “such . . . behavior is considerably worse than unprofessional; it has the force and effect of obstructing justice – something far more serious than the mere childish waging of ‘turf warfare.’ ” He threatens to go to court if he doesn’t get the tape by tomorrow.
A West Bridgewater spokesman replies: “I think he’s mad that our detectives just happen to be better than his detectives.”