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MCSO managers: We warned of sex crimes' understaffing

PHOENIX -- Two managers at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office told investigators examining hundreds of botched sex-crimes cases that they had warned some of the agency's senior administrators about having too few detectives to keep up with a growing caseload.

Kim Seagraves, the squad's former supervisor, told internal investigators that sex-crimes detectives were pulled away from time to time to help with training efforts and Arpaio's immigrant smuggling squad and questioned whether her boss had brought her complaints about understaffing to those above him.

"We're swamped. I can't keep up," Seagraves told investigators.

The sheriff's office had to reopen more than 400 of its sex-crime cases countywide for a three-year period ending in 2008 after finding they were inadequately investigated or not examined at all after a report of the crime was made.

The botched investigations have been an embarrassment to a department whose sheriff is the self-described "America's toughest sheriff" and a national hero to conservatives on immigration issues.

The internal investigation was launched after the city of El Mirage, which paid Arpaio's office for police services, said it discovered at least 32 reported child molestations in which the sheriff's office failed to follow through, even though suspects were known in all but six cases.

El Mirage alleged there were many cases in which sheriff's investigators wrote no follow-up reports, collected no additional forensic evidence and made zero effort after the initial report of the crime was taken.

An internal affairs report released Monday attributed the failures to understaffing and mismanagement. The report blamed some sex-crimes squad members for some failures, but noted the squad was "overworked and understaffed."

Arpaio apologized in December 2011 for the bungled cases, and his office has since said it has moved to clear up the cases and taken steps to prevent the problem from happening again.

The agency said the squad is now adequately staffed with 11 detectives, compared to the five it had in 2007.

The sheriff's office didn't respond to a request by The Associated Press to have an agency official respond to the comments of Seagraves and a retired sheriff's official and instead emailed a written statement that it had released on Monday when the internal investigation records were made public.

Brian Beamish, who ran the sheriff's policing operation in El Mirage when the sheriff's office provided police services there and has since retired from the agency, told internal investigators that the squad was already struggling to keep up cases before the sheriff's office took on the El Mirage police services contract without adding any additional detectives.

Beamish placed some blame at the feet of David Hendershott, who at the time was Arpaio's top aide.

"I mean 100 percent I would stand on a stack of Bibles and swear in front of the Supreme Court that Chief Hendershott made those calls," Beamish said. "He was aware of the shortages. He was aware of the potential problems."

Beamish took issue with those in the agency who claimed they didn't know about the problems, noting that the problems were talked about in staff meetings in which Arpaio was present.

The statement released Monday by the sheriff's office said the agency took corrective actions once officials learned of the problems, echoing comments made previously by Hendershott.

A message left for Hendershott through his attorney wasn't immediately returned Tuesday afternoon.

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