The federal government filed a lawsuit against the Maricopa CountySheriff’s Office Thursday morning alleging that sheriff’s deputiesdiscriminate against Latino residents during patrol operations andin the county’s jails and that the Sheriff’s Office retaliatesagainst critics of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It marks just the second time since a police-reform act was passedin the early 1990s that the Justice Department has been forced tofile a contested lawsuit against a law-enforcement agency, saidAssistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez. U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against MCSO MCSO releases agreement terms in discrimination case Justice Dept.
heads toward lawsuit vs. Sheriff Joe Arpaio Negotiations between MCSO, DOJ fall apart Feds cool to Arpaio’s demands over discrimination investigation Arpaio’s response to Justice Dept. cordial, challenging Feds: Arpaio fueled ‘culture of bias’ Arpaio: Inquiry is motivated by politics, hampers enforcement Special report: An in-depth look at ‘America’s Toughest Sheriff’ “In the scores of other cases, we’ve been able to workcollaboratively with law-enforcement agencies because we have ashared interest in improving the department and making thecommunity safer,” Perez said. “This is truly extraordinary.” The lawsuit asks a federal judge to issue an order barringsheriff’s deputies from discriminatory practices and requiring theagency to implement policies and training to remedy the “pattern orpractice of unlawful conduct” that federal investigators alleged tohave found in the agency.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona and hadbeen anticipated since attempts to negotiate a resolution to thediscrimination claims broke down in April after the representativesof the Justice Department and Sheriff’s Office failed to agree onthe presence of a court-appointed monitor to oversee theresolution. Now, a judge will determine the validity of the government’sdiscrimination allegations and what steps the Sheriff’s Officeneeds to take to resolve the claims. But Perez left open thepossibility that the two parties could settle the dispute withoutlitigation– provided the Sheriff’s Office agrees to the presenceof a monitor. “It would be a wonderful thing for this community if we could cometogether and forge solutions,” Perez said. Aluminium Composite Signs
“I hope he will changehis position on that (monitor).” Arpaio has questioned the timing of the government’s legal action,stating that the investigation is a politically motivated ploy fromPresident Barack Obama’s administration to entice Hispanic votersto vote for Obama in the November election. The civil-rights probe began in the summer of 2008, Perez said,before he worked at the Justice Department and before Obama tookoffice, and the matter could have been resolved much sooner had theSheriff’s Office refused to comply with the government’s requestsfor records during the investigation. The sheriff’s refusalresulted in the Justice Department filing a lawsuit in 2010, whichwas resolved the following year granting investigators access tothe sheriff’s records. “This case could have been brought to resolution much sooner,”Perez said. “Frankly, we were stonewalled.” The Sheriff’s Office has tried to dispute findings that JusticeDepartment investigators released in December, which accused theagency of widespread discrimination in patrol operations and thejails. Aluminum Embossed Sheet
Sheriff’s officials have repeatedly insisted that thethree-year federal investigation focused on isolated incidentsinvolving a few deputies who were punished for theirtransgressions, and in some cases fired. But the federal government’s complaint makes clear that it was theresponsibility of the Sheriff’s Office to adequately train deputiesinvolved in sensitive law-enforcement operations, includingimmigration enforcement, and the failure to do so demonstrates theagency’s intent to discriminate against Latino residents. “The defendants’ violations of the Constitution and laws of theUnited States are a product of a culture of disregard in MCSO forLatinos that starts at the top and pervades the organization,” thecomplaint reads. The lawsuit focuses on several primary areas in the Sheriff’sOffice: the work of the human-smuggling unit, “crime-suppressionoperations,” identity-theft investigations that result in businessraids, operations in the jails and the Sheriff’s retaliationagainst critics of the office. The work of the Sheriff’s patrol operations and human-smugglingunit was subjected to an audit where the government’s experts foundthat Hispanic drivers were more likely to be stopped thannon-Latino drivers to varying degrees, depending on which portionof the county they’re traveling. China Aluminium Composite Signs
For example, the government claimsthat Hispanic drivers in the southwest portion of Maricopa Countyare four times more likely to be stopped and drivers in thenortheast portion of the county are nine times more likely to bestopped than non-Latino drivers. The claim also alleges that human-smuggling detectives are morelikely to stop Latino drivers who are typically U.S. citizens orlegal residents. “Reports by MCSO officers reveal the routine absence of probablecause to arrest passengers.
For example, the following factors, insome combination, were listed as the support for probable cause inmore than 50 arrest reports: passengers appeared nervous or avoidedeye contact; passengers had strong smell of body odor; andpassengers had no luggage or personal belongings in the car,” thecomplaint reads. Sheriff’s detectives have long relied on some of those factors andothers, such as whether the passengers in the vehicle know eachother, to develop reasonable suspicion that passengers are beingsmuggled through Maricopa County. “If the passenger cannot produce identification or does not speakEnglish to the officer, the HSU officer routinely will detain thepassenger to determine whether the passenger is lawfully in theUnited States,” the complaint reads. The Sheriff’s Office has repeatedly asked the government forevidence to back up its allegations.
Federal officials consistentlyresponded that the evidence would emerge during the now-failednegotiations and experts have said the Justice Department reservessome of that information in case the matter needs to be settled incourt. The government’s complaint filed Thursday contains more detail thanthe 22-page investigative report federal officials released inDecember. The complaint also takes issue with sheriff’s deputies’ worksiteraids in pursuit of identity thieves, which frequently result inthe deputies detaining all employees on site while they determinewhich workers are the subjects of their warrants. “(Criminal employment squad) officers ordinarily use unjustifiedseizures to conduct interviews of all seized persons to determineif they are legally in the country, despite lacking legaljustification to detain them,” the complaint reads. And in addition to alleging that the Sheriff’s detention officersdiscriminate and retaliate against Latino inmates in jail, thecomplaint claims that Sheriff’s officials, including former DeputyChief David Hendershott, tried to exact revenge on the Sheriff’scritics.
The complaint notes the Sheriff’s arrests of activist Sal Rezaduring protests against the immigration bill SB 1070 and the vastconspiracy complaint the Sheriff’s Office and former CountyAttorney Andrew Thomas filed against a host of elected officials. But for all the detailed allegations contained in the complaint,the government’s argument comes down to a general lack of oversightin the Sheriff’s Office and the agency’s apparent disregard for theconcerns that its law-enforcement priorities were generating. “MCSO, through its specialized units and specialized operations,has targeted Latinos in their homes and in their workplaces in adiscriminatory and otherwise unconstitutional manner,” thecomplaint reads. “At the same time, MCSO has knowingly failed toimplement adequate policies, training, or accountability mechanismsto prevent unlawful discrimination against Latinos.”.