This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office case of mistaken identity - John Alsap

Since I'm a collector of old photos of Phoenix, and am interested in history, I see a lot of mistakes. I see mistakes in books, on the web, just about everywhere. It's usually some garbled information that got passed down with the "copy and paste syndrome" - where people fail to go back and check facts against original documents. I understand it's human nature to be trusting of information and just copy it and post it, or publish it.

My first reaction when someone gives me some historical information is to double-check the documentation. I know that mistakes happen, and I try not to add to their continuation. So I pride myself on the precision of what I post, especially about Phoenix. And usually when someone questions me about something I've posted, claiming that it's wrong, I answer politely that I thank them, but really, I usually can tell that they're doing the "I read on the internet somewhere..." or "I always heard that..." And no matter how nice I am about it, I'm pretty sure that people are insulted that I just don't accept what they say, without any documentation.

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So when I got an email a few of years ago that told me that I was in error of a name of the person above, I wasn't surprised. Like I say, I get that stuff all of the time. And besides, I had found the photo on the website for the Maricopa County Sheriffs Office. And it had been on the wall in their Hall of Sheriffs for over sixty years. It seemed like a source that I could trust. But they were wrong.

And it all started with an article in the local Phoenix newspaper. They had done the same thing that I had done - they had taken their information from the Maricopa County Sheriff''s Office. And the person who had sent me the email was following up on that, and was convinced that the newspaper was wrong, the Sheriff's Office was wrong, and I was wrong.

And then I got the documentation. And over the years I've found a lot of photos of John Alsap, the first mayor of Phoenix, and who deserved more than to be misidentified as a former Sheriff (he never was). It started with a Who's Who (which is a book that used to be written that did short biographies of prominent people in the community), and suddenly I was finding a lot of information on John Alsap, who was quite an important historical figure.

So, the Sheriff's Office changed the website, and took down the misidentified photo, after 65 years. Sheriff Joe Arpaio himself got involved, and a retraction was printed in the newspaper.

By the way, I'm not going to post the erroneous photo here. The wrong name was actually written right on the photo, and the scan has it. So it will probably reappear all over again, because that's what happens.