Click here to read the entire report from the Department of Justice
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio will cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation on civil rights violations only if they turn over requested documents. If they don’t, Arpaio is ready to go to court.
The federal government is accusing sheriff and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of a wide range of civil rights violations, including racial profiling and discrimination.
The Justice Department has been investigating the MCSO since 2008 for unconstitutional policing, searches, seizures and discrimination against Latinos. According to the DOJ, the probe took much longer than it should have, largely because the MCSO stonewalled the investigation for a year and a half, refusing to provide documents the DOJ requested. After 18 months, MCSO finally provided the information DOJ was seeking, which allowed the probe to go forward.
The civil rights report says federal authorities are continuing to investigate complaints of deputies for civil rights allegations. It also says the probe only addresses civil violations, not criminal violations that may have been committed by Arpaio or others in his agency.
“MCSO’s systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections has created a wall of distrust between the sheriff’s office and large segments of the community, which dramatically compromises the ability to protect and serve the people,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
“The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO’s culture, and are compounded by MCSO’s penchant for retaliation against individuals who speak out.”
Specifically, the DOJ reports says the Sheriff’s Office:
• Racially profiles when it comes to traffic stops. The DOJ hired an expert in racial profiling to examine the statistics of MCSO traffic stops. The expert found that Latinos (legal and illegal) are 4 to 9 times more likely than non-Latinos to be pulled over.
• Chooses areas for “crime suppression sweeps” based not on criminal activity, but rather on racial profiling, including such things as complaints about people speaking Spanish at local businesses.
• Discriminates against jail inmates with limited English skills, including Latinos. For instance, jail officers sometimes punish non-English-speaking inmates who don’t follow orders spoken in English. Some MCSO officers also refuse to accept forms filled out by Latino inmates with limited English skills if the forms are completed in Spanish. The report says jail officers must be able to communicate with inmates in Spanish if the inmates are fluent in Spanish but not in English.
• Illegally retaliates against people exercising their First Amendment right to criticize MCSO’s policies or practices. The report cites instances of people who criticized the sheriff and were then arrested and jail for no reason, only to be released several hours later.
The DOJ’s Perez says the practices are “deeply rooted” in the culture of MCSO, and that the agency is in need of a culture change. The department will give Arpaio’s office 60 days to show progress at correcting some of the problems. If no progress is shown in that time, legal action may be taken.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has responded to the report by revoking MCSO’s 287(g) authority, which allows jail officers to check the immigration status of inmates being booked into the jail. The revocation is effective immediately, according to a statement released by DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.
The DHS previously revoked the 287(g) authority of sheriff’s deputies to check the immigration status of people they run across during patrols, traffic stops, etc.
The sheriff has denied the allegations against his office and called the attack politically motivated by the Obama administration.
“Don’t come here and use me the whipping boy for a national and international problem,” he said at a news conference.
“We are going to cooperate the best we can. And if they are not happy, I guess they can carry out their threat and go to federal court,” Arpaio said