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Arizona sheriff prefers jail to handing over server password

It’s like the Wild West out there

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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 under threat of arrest, while the deputies changed passwords on servers and secured rooms. County officials called in the judges for help, with superior court judge Joseph Heilman ordering control of the system to be handed over by next Wednesday.

However, Chief Deputy David Hendershott is holding firm, refusing to hand over the passwords even under threat of going to jail for contempt of court.

Heilman has held hearings on a dispute between the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors over the running of an integrated criminal justice system since April.

Kerry Martin, a lawyer acting for the sheriff’s office, said deputies had taken over the system to stop county managers applying a management system they disagreed with. Martin, repeatedly quizzed by judge Heilman on why it didn’t bring this aspect of the dispute back to court before acting, claimed that the deputies had the authority to take control.

The Wild-West–style standoff between sheriffs and county threatens local access to the National Criminal Information Center and the Arizona Criminal Justice Information system.

The judge declined to issue a restraining order against the sheriff, instead convening a sit-down meeting between civilian staff, lawyers, probation offices and the sheriffs next Tuesday. To add extra flavour to an already heady mix, Hendershott stated that the sheriff’s office accessed the systems as part of a criminal investigation into suspected mismanagement of the computer system involving other judges.

More on the story can be found in the local Arizona media here, and here. ®

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