Sheriff Joe Arpaio, MCSO leaders want to know how many deputies are recording own traffic stops

PHOENIX - Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, known to never shy away from camera, is now addressing a videotaping policy within his department.

The move comes after hundreds, possibly thousands of recorded traffic stops were found in the home of  former deputy Ramon Armendariz.

Armendariz, a 9-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office was found dead in his home after an apparent suicide, according to Arpaio.

The items found in the home could have a serious impact on the racial profiling case against Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

Along with the videos, hundreds of identification cards, such as licenses, more than 100 license plates, and drugs were found in the home, according to investigators.

The findings were the subject of a recent closed-door hearing in federal court.

At issue, who knew about the massive amount of recorded traffic stops and why weren't hey submitted in court during the racial profiling trial against Arpaio and his office.

"He (Armendariz) has these massive amounts of evidence and things that should not have been in the personal keeping or safekeeping of any deputy," said ACLU attorney Dan Pochoda. "Armendariz was a witness in our trial, not a key witness, but a witness and we knew nothing of these recordings."

MCSO's attorney, Tom Liddy maintains he knew nothing about the recordings until the discovery in Armendariz's home.

"Was I surprised, no, I was very surprised, much more surprised than anyone to learn of this," said Liddy.  "I wish we had these tapes for trial, I do, I feel like things would have been different if we had them."

Liddy confirmed to ABC15 that roughly 250 recordings have been reviewed so far.

"I would say we have found five or six recordings that are problematic, what we describe as showing unprofessional conduct," said Liddy.

Liddy said MCSO immediately notified all parties involved in the case, including Federal Judge Murray Snow and a court-appointed monitor currently overseeing some MCSO operations.

Judge Snow has ordered MCSO to place cameras in all of its cars. In a previous interview, Arpaio responded to that move.

"I'm not going to get into the courts right now, but I will tell you one thing, ok that (cameras in cars) might not be a bad thing, but I'll tell you, I'm not putting cameras on my guys' (lapels), no way is that going to happen," said Arpaio.

Whether Arpaio knew or not, those types of recordings were already taking place.

ABC15 has been told several deputies purchased and have been wearing their own audio/video recording devices.

"We just don't know how many have been wearing these, I can tell you more than one," said Liddy.

Turns out, according to Liddy, there is no policy regarding wearing audio and video equipment for MCSO deputies.

Therefore, Armendariz did not violate any policy by wearing the device since there were no rules regarding this issue.

Some of the questions which could not be answered by Liddy or Pochoda include:

* Who knew Armendariz was wearing the audio & video equipment?

* What do the recordings show?

* Could they have an impact on ongoing criminal investigations or previous investigations?

* Will the newly found recordings have an impact within the federal courts since they weren't provided to the court?

Liddy told ABC15 the device which holds the media likely has enough space to hold 5,000 recordings, but he believes there are roughly 1,000 recordings that investigators must now go through.

The recordings have not yet been made public while investigators, including those from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Internal Affairs Unit, sifts through them.

A future court hearing has not yet been scheduled regarding the matter, but it's likely when more information is gleaned from the recordings, the federal court monitor will relay the information to Judge Snow who will then call for a hearing to be briefed on the findings.

ABC15 has been told Arpaio is now discussing implementing an audio/video recording policy for deputies.


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