back to article Arizona sheriff prefers jail to handing over server password

A legal standoff has developed in Arizona between sheriff’s deputies and county officials over a management system overhaul. Last week officers from Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office raided government buildings and took over computer systems shared between law enforcement and county officials. Sysadmins were marshalled away …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    you mean they don't know *anyone* who could hack the systems?

    sheesh. and they call themselves law enforcement...

  2. Anonymous Coward

    As this is AZ/USA then...

    I'd better keep quiet as he might try to extradite me from the UK 'just because he feels like it' and has to produce no evidence to back up his charges.

    Yes M'lord I've got my coat.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just the Wild West

    Years ago I worked for an English county council's IT department. The county police had once upon a time used our IT but were more or less fully separated from us by the time I was working there and had outsourced their systems management.

    The local plod's IT supremo (a senior copper, not one of their civilian staff) gained quite a reputation for arbitrarily sacking whichever company had the management contract every couple of years or so and marching their employees out of police HQ on pain of arrest. he did that two or three times as I recall.

    So it's not just the more occidental parts of Yankland...

  4. Tony S

    Quite right too

    This raises an interesting point that needs to be discussed further.

    In the UK, the process of investigation of computers (including servers) is governed by the ACPO guidelines. This dictates what is considered good practice; failure to follow the guidelines would most likely result in the evidence being rejected and therefore the court case failing. (I know this having studied a PG course on Forensics)

    In terms of the investigation, they don't actually need the "administrator's" or "Server" password to get access - the information that they require should be obtained using other methods or a different account with appropriate permissions.

    In fact they most definitely shouldn't have the admin password as it would no longer be possible to state with any absolute certainty who carried out any specific task. If I were the lawyer defending the case, I would argue that any work carried out after the password were revealed could have been done by the outsiders, and demand that the prosecution prove otherwise (which they can't).

    I know that this case is in the US and therefore they do have slightly different rules, but I think that the point about proving who had access to change the evidence is still valid. (Unless anyone knows differently?)

  5. Anonymous Coward

    "I shot the Sheriff..."

    Oh, it's been done already.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    This has happened before, Dave

    and it has always been due to human error.

  7. Brian Miller

    The most guns win

    County Manager Smith called the action "the lowest common denominator of a thug, which is the use of force. (Sheriff Joe Arpaio) has no authority in law - or business practice - to do this. He just decided . . . to send in deputies and take over and kick the staff out. It's a misappropriation of public assets."

    Hoooo, yah! And Sheriff Arpaio has no qualms about going to jail for contempt. I hope that the office of sheriff is an elected spot in that county. I'd really like to see someone like that thrown out. Until then, I guess that the guys with the most guns wins. In this case, the "good" guys are not behaving that well.

  8. kain preacher Silver badge

    @ac 15:50 GMT

    What are you talking about.

  9. disgruntled yank Silver badge


    And here I thought there was only one crazy sheriff in Arizona.

  10. Daniel 4

    The judge should just cite him for contempt

    The thought of Chief Deputy David Hendershott doing an indefinite period of time in the clink warms my heart. Of course, it's my personal opinion that this fine nation would be far better off swapping out the non-violent prisoners in our so-called "corrections" system with arrogant cops. I'd much rather shake hands with a pot head or a prostitute than a cop with such an overblown opinion of himself that he feels he's above the law.


  11. Anonymous Coward

    Yep, that's our Sheriff Joke...

    I am still amazed that my county continues to vote this excuse of a peace officer in office, considering how black he's made the MSCO's reputation.

    Anonymous for obvious reasons.

  12. Anonymous Coward

    If it's Maricopa, I'm not surprised

    And if you are surprised that relations between the police, the judiciary, and the county could be this bad, look up Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Arpaio for the whole sordid history.

  13. Noah Monsey

    Conflicting regulations

    The reasoning behind the change in management for the system was related to allowing technicians who did not have security clearances to run the system. The regulations which fund the system require that the system is managed by law enforcement personell. The Maricopa County staff had their employess to run the system and the Maricopa County Sheriff's office was just moving the system back to being managed by law enforcement personell.

  14. Graham Marsden

    Maricopa County...?

    Hang on, doesn't this mean if the Sheriff gets jailed, he can spend time in Joe Arpaio's prison?

    I'm sure he'll have fun in there...

  15. MeRp

    police abuse of authority

    The merits of their protestations notwithstanding, no police force should ever be allowed to perform an armed coup d'état. It sets a terrible precedent, and brings about a social environment where everyone should feel unsafe enough that they need to carry firearms at all times to protect themselves, not just from the criminals, but from the police as well.

    This Sheriff's department has just transitioned themselves from police force to paramilitary rebels. The state should send in the National Guard to suppress this uprising. If they fail to do so with the same alacrity with which they would address any other uprising, then the Federal government should respond. Either way, this rebellion should not be treated any differently than they would treat a rebellion by citizens without police uniforms.

  16. wsm

    NCIC and ACJIS

    The issue at hand isn't control of computers, servers, or networks as most people know them. It's a matter of controlling access to two criminal records systems. The law enforcement personnel must control the system under strict federal and state guidelines. The trouble starts when politicians think they can arbitrarily give themselves or their under-skilled relatives control over the systems.

    The rules are so strict on the data from these systems that only certified operators can even look at the terminal screens that display the information, let alone touch their keyboards or print from the system.

    The sheriff probably has a point, but the local media and the misguided judge aren't letting him get the point across.

  17. Glenn Amspaugh

    When computers are outlawed...

    ... wait, what's going on here? They're having a standoff over a software update?

  18. Dillon Pyron

    Interesting introductions

    Hmm, sheriff's deputies found in contempt of court and get hauled off to jail until they comply.

    "Bruno, Carlos, this is deputy sheriff ***. He's the one who popped you two last week. Please make him feel at home."

    Followed shortly by the passwords.

    BTW, how many folks here think they could pop those machines open in a couple of minutes? They are apparently running W2K.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Easy to hack.

    They just need 2 people typing on the keyboard at the same time, I saw it on NCIS

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It _is_ a wild west stand-off

    Maricopa county's sheriff is Joe Arpaio, the most publicity hungry and stark raving bonkers sheriff in the modern US. If you want to drop your jaw at the other stuff he gets up to, read the New Yorker's profile of the man and his office:

    Suffice to say that i hope none of the sys admins are Latinos with a paper problem.

  21. Fatman Silver badge

    Deja Vu

    Did we not read about something similar last year? A sys admin in San Francisco, refused to hand over passwords to local government? Oh, yes, I remember, his name is Terry Childs.

    Since the SF officials decried Childs as "dangerous"; and had him jailed, then I think, that jail is just the appropriate remedy here.

    The Judge should hand down an order to disclose the passwords under the threat of contempt.

    And, I am sure that the Chief Deputy would love to spend some of his time in one of Joe Arpaio's summer camps. In case you did not know, the Sheriff of Maricopa County likes to make things "unpleasant" for the inmates in his jail. They are bunked in tents OUTDOORS.

    Put the Chief Deputy in one of Joe's summer camp tents until he gives up the passwords. No showers, a portable potty (I think you Brits call it a 'loo') for a bathroom.. Keep the Chief Deputy locked up until he talks.

    Childs was locked up for the same exact thing. Charge the Chief Deputy with federal crimes. What is fair, is fair.

    Grenade, because I hope this blows up in Arpaio's face.

  22. DanceMan

    Joe Arpaio

    The "America's Toughest" Sheriff of Maricopa County is infamous:

    This guy is a love 'em or hate 'em type.

  23. Reg Sim

    Maybe I am sleepy but..

    I found it rather hard to follow that article....

  24. Glen 9

    idiocy anyone?

    Surly they would have some sort of computer forensics people that can hack this?! If not, all the hackers know where to set up shop.

  25. asdf Silver badge

    Sheriff Joe Arpaio is a giant tool

    As a reg reader that actually lives in Maricopa county I can explain a little bit about this drama caused Sheriff Joe the asshat. This sheriff is not really a lawman as much as a radical right wing politician with a badge and a gun (far worse than anyone Bush put in charge of Justice during his long tenure). The guy is somewhat popular locally with the Bushtards (Arizona traditionally very redneck western republican). He gets a lot of sympathy by treating prisoners bad (makes em wear pink outfits and panties, eat bologne sandwiches, live in tents in 45+ C weather, etc. Even I do really care about being nice to prisoners but lately he as gotten worse. He is doing some obviously illegal tactics to round up immigrants from Mexico in order to please the rednecks out here (republicans hate mexicans because they are catholic and don't vote republican as well as not being WASP). Even the head of US homeland safety department (who also used to be our governor) is trying to make him enforce the law as he is supposed to. He basically runs a political machine with its own foot soldiers and lately has gotten to be a real problem. I have given up on the whie Arizona voters fixing the problem (land of John McCain and Edward Meechum after all) so I hope the guy gets impeached or something. Perhaps finally we will get enough registered hispanic voters (every republicans worse nightmare) to kick this loser to the curb. Ever notice that conservative redneck white asshats are always looked back as being in the wrong about everything (slavery, jim crow laws, lynching immigrants including irish, etc)?

  26. asdf Silver badge


    Sorry former governor was Evan Mecham ( A real solid choice by Arizona voters. One other thing I didn't is Sheriff Joe (who should bother with actually catching violent felons) goes to businesses used by mainly hispanics such as mexican style super-markets and check cashing places, rounds every one up and deports them. Never mind these people might have young children at home. Yes the USA has big problems politically and legally with immigration but having a loose canon redneck Sheriff is probably not going to solve the problem (though it does get rid of hispanics who may one day might be able to vote his dumb ass out office).

  27. stu wells


    As far as the article is concerned, I would like to know who put the criminal database in the hands of civilians to begin with. It sounds like the Sheriff was acting in good conscious, if not the most politically correct way. From the other articles, he clearly felt he had the authority to take control of the systems, backed by federal and state laws. It doesn't sound like he's getting a fair shake in court, but I imagine his actions will be upheld in appeals if he loses this one.

    It's pretty clear that there is more going on here than what is in any of the articles, it will be interesting to see how this all falls out, and who's dirty laundry shows up on the clothes line.

  28. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    Being an elected lawman it would seem the only way to stop him will be to run against him and get people out on the streets to vote for your candidate.

    An old fashioned machine politician needs an old fashioned solution.

    Look up RA Heinlein's "Take back your governement."

  29. Moss Icely Spaceport
    Thumb Up

    Police passwords 101

    It will be one of the following:

    - Doughnut

    - Dohnut

    - Dunnut

    - Donut

    If not, try plural.

  30. Ascylto

    @ kain preacher

    Presuming you are a US citizen and therefore know nothing of international news ...

    The reference is to the extradition Treaty signed by some twat in the United Kingdom which gives the right of extradition of UK subjects to the USA authorities with little or no evidence of guilt. Not even a prima facie case. Whereas for the UK to extradite a US citizen would require the UK to present evidence. Well done the US!

    The particular case involves a UK subject, Gary McKinnon, who suffers from Asperger's Syndrome and who admittedly hacked in US 'secure' military computer systems looking for, he claims, UFO information. The US authorities want to take him to court. The should actually give him the Congressional Medal or somesuch for showing how pisspoor the security was.

    I would rather he remain in this country and be employed by GCHQ to hack into US military computers.

    The UK person (aka twat) who signed the Treaty should be sent to Afghanistan with a target on his back.

  31. Juillen 1


    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the Sherriff is actually enforcing the law (very strict, by Federal legislation) on the operations of the Legal systems. I believe the law states that it needs to be administered by trained Law Enforcement officials, not by politicians and unvetted staff (such that evidence gained from this can be traced to a very limited set of individuals, all who are on very thin ice if anything gets altered).

    Now, if a business gets charged with criminal behaviour involving computers, what happens? Oh, yes, the local law enforcement gets called out and takes control of their machines, locking out the administrators/users until the full legal process works its way through, and the matter is decided by a neutral court.

    Your solution seems to be "Allow illegal immigration to continue unchecked until there are enough people who don't like the Sherriff around to kick him out". Which is no solution. If the Sherriff keeps hitting places and deporting people, then those people are there illegally. He may be harsh, but he's doing his job.

    If you don't like that, get the law changed to allow anybody to emigrate to the US without check. While you're at it, stop drug dealers and other criminal elements from going to jail because they have kids at home that are going to be deprived of parents. Illegally emigrating to a country is a choice that someone made, knowing the risks; they're caught and chucked out, that's the risk they took.

    Interesting that you blame everything on "redneck white asshats". Seems you're showing a very heavy bias there. Simple fact of the matter is "humans are to blame". Race, political affiliation and outlook are all variable.

    If the Arozona populace keep voting the guy in, and you really hate it that much, I'd say move. It's the same country, so moving is easy. Go somewhere that you really feel at home, and you'll find that you've just swapped one set of issues for another (happened where I live; there was about a decade where it was 'trendy' for the hardcore left to show how 'in touch' they were by moving to nice houses on the edge of the city's 'ghetto area'. Full of good intentions and 'understanding'. After ten years of that happening, they understood that they got burgled a lot, assaulted, robbed, abused and had their property vandalised. Then they stopped being so understanding and either moved out of the area, or swapped from being very left to quite right).

  32. kain preacher Silver badge


    You know when you make assumption you make an ass out of your self .

    "'Presuming you are a US citizen and therefore know nothing of international news ."

    As reg reader I'd have to be blind not to have sen the articles on Gary McKinnon,

    What I meant is that has nothing to do with this story. But hey don't let that get in your way of insulting Americans.

    Ps I thought thought the Reg was international, silly me .

  33. kain preacher Silver badge


    Oh and I left out that the guy confessed how much more evidence do you need ?. Oh despite what you might think it was not a secure military computer no matter what the media says. Truly secure military computers in the USA don't connect to the net .

  34. Anonymous Coward

    @ "They're having a standoff over a software update?"

    ... they probably don't want Vista installed.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who needs passwords?

    If they need to get onto the servers, then surely having physical access to the servers would allow SysAdmins to bypass existing security passwords and gain access from the management console.

  36. John Savard Silver badge

    Appropriate Conduct

    The sheriff should simply have noted his concerns to the NCIC, which would have sent Federal personnel down with proper authority to purge any criminal records information from the county's computers. Of course, this could have caused an interruption to the ability of the police department's ability to use this information, but it would have avoided a legal tangle where now the sheriff is partly in the wrong for interfering with the county's property without an authorizing court order. Apparently, the idea of contacting superior authority, and getting permission before taking action, is foreign to some people.

  37. Scott Terril


    Not that I would ever want the facts to get in the way of a good rant, but dude (or dudette)... really... quit getting your hysterical (sorry) historical facts from the DNC talking points memos. Just couple of unfortunate facts:

    Slavery - Black Africans selling black africans to white dutchmen to white southern DEMOCRATS

    President that ended slavery - Abraham Lincoln..... REPUBLICAN

    Authors of Jim Crow laws - DEMOCRATS

    Authors of the 1875 Civil Rights Act that tried to challenge Jim Crow laws - REPUBLICANS

    President that segregated federal offices that had been desegregated since the Civil War - Woodrow Wilson.... DEMOCRAT

    Of course, it is much easier running around calling people asshats than actually doing a little research or picking up a book on proper grammar.

    Bye the bye, 45+ C (Celsius really? Not a natural born citizen?) isn't that bad. It's a dry heat.

  38. Richard 23
    Thumb Up

    If it's true ...

    .. that in the US the criminal records systems can only be accessed by Law Enforcement Officers then full marks to the USA!

    I wish that were true in the UK, where it seems anyone can get hold of them!

  39. Anonymous Coward

    @Scott Terril: missed the last history class?

    Apparently you missed the class on the 1960s where Nixon introduced the "southern strategy". At the end of that decade, the Republicans and Democrats bizarrely swapped positions on race, with the Republicans abandoning their traditional positions and instead consciously pursuing a policy of racial divisiveness and social conservatism while the Democrats -- the party of John and Bobby Kennedy -- became the advocates of civil rights.

    The historical Republican party would be ashamed of what the modern party has come to stand for. But you know, "it is much easier running around calling people asshats than actually doing a little research" on anything that's happened in the last 50 years....

  40. asdf Silver badge

    Re: Scott Terril

    If you go back and read my comments you will noticed I said conservative racist asshats are wrongs not either party. I am well aware the parties basically switch ideologies when (of all things) Texas democrat (LBJ) actually had the balls to stand up for whats right and to his (then redneck jackass) party and pass civil right legislation in the 1960s. All the evil democrats then became Republicans and the minorities moved to the Democrat party which then became a little less redneck. The fact is both parties suck bad for different reasons (best summed with Reps = borrow and spend on military (got to stick our dicks in other countries asses after all) and corporate welfare, dems = tax and spend on government bueracrats). I just find rich holier than thou preachy hypocrites, rednecks who are so ignorant they vote against their class interests and those that take advantage of both, to tell me who is blessed by god and who is enough of a drone to be rewarded (gov jobs, contracts, etc), to be a bit more unsavory. They both take my money and try and tell me how to live but you always expect to have a small class of people so hell bent on control that nothing can stop them. Throught out time they have been called clergy, royalty, elders and today they are called politicians.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Scott Terril

    Slavery - Black Africans selling black africans to white dutchmen to white southern CONSERVATIVES

    President that ended slavery - Abraham Lincoln.....LIBERAL

    Authors of Jim Crow laws - CONSERVATIVES

    Authors of the 1875 Civil Rights Act that tried to challenge Jim Crow laws - LIBERALS

    President that segregated federal offices that had been desegregated since the Civil War - Woodrow Wilson.... CONSERVATIVE

    There, fix that for ya.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    It is interesting to note that the Atlantic Slave Trade bypassed the previous NorthAfrican/Arab middlemen which had started that profitable enterprise much earlier.

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