Serious Issues in Graham County Arizona
Graham County in Arizona is a low population county. The county seat is in Safford. Both the Graham County Sheriff’s Office and the Safford Police Department are coming under fire after a local news station did an investigation that began with the suspicious death of an inmate.
Bear in mind that Safford, Arizona only has a population of about 10,000. Small communities like that tend to have close ties between people in power and a higher rate of abuse of power by police.
What Happened to Jorden Simms?
Jorden Marie Simms was arrested for shoplifting and a drug warrant by a Safford Police Department officer, on December 21. Simms filed a complaint saying that Officer Jeremiah French sexually assaulted her in his police vehicle before he took her to the jail. She was taken for what is referred to as a “specialized exam.” There is no indication in the first KENS 5 article of what that exam entailed or why it took three days. Simms was brought back to the jail on December 24, but while being processed in, she claimed a detention guard sodomized her with an unknown object, while searching her.
On December 26, Simms was being transported to an Advocacy Center for another “specialized exam” but this time Simms never arrived. According to the Graham County Officers who were transporting Simms, she was able to get out of her handcuffs, belly chain and leg shackles then open the door, which conveniently didn’t have the child safety lock on, and jump out of the moving vehicle. Simms suffered head trauma and eventually died in the hospital.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety is investigating Simms’ death. Officer French is on administrative leave. The name of the detention officer that Simms accused of sodomizing her has not been released and no information has been given regarding his working status. It’s appears, from the article, that the Sheriff’s Office is not being very transparent or helpful.
Lies or Truth?
It’s not impossible that this was a troubled woman who made false accusations and who took her own life. And it’s also not impossible that officers who had committed a crime, killed her and claimed she took her own life to get rid of someone who could bring their whole world crashing down on them. We don’t know. The 12 News I-Team in Arizona continued investigating and found six women who were willing to speak to them about police sexual misconduct occurring at the jail by Graham County Detention Officers, and before getting to the jail by arresting officer with the Safford Police Department.
Sexual Misconduct Uncovered
According to the second KENS 5 article, “The allegations include female inmates claiming officers asked for sexual favors, such as showing their breasts, in order to get out of their cell.” And there was even one woman who said, “I’m scared of being raped in that jail.” The six women, some of which are still in jail, told the investigating news team of multiple instances of officers requesting sexual favors for some kind of beneficial return. This seems to validate Simms’ claims of sexual harassment and abuse.
But again, you have a credibility issue. Can these people be trusted? They are already in jail for breaking the law so they are obviously not upstanding citizens of the community. This is the mentality towards people who have been arrested. That’s why they are so vulnerable to being victimized by unscrupulous officers. No one believes them. Fortunately, at least one detention officer was complacent enough with how accepted his actions were that he felt it was alright to send pictures of himself to one of the women.
Andrea McNair said she was constantly harassed in the jail. Ms. McNair said that it was only 35 seconds after she was released that she received a text from Detention Officer Brandon Palmer. The text included photos of Palmer naked and one specifically of his genitals. In the text Palmer asks McNair to send him nude photos of her. After the 12 News team in Arizona brought this information to light, the Sheriff’s Office fired Officer Palmer but no information was given as to whether an investigation was going to be done on claims of him sexually harassing women in the jail and if any charges were going to be filed against him.
The women say that the problem is not just one officer but it doesn’t sound like the Graham County Sheriff’s Office wants to do anything to stop the abuse.