After a three-year investigation, the Justice Department has accused Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio – despised in certain quarters for his tough stance on violations of immigration law – of violating the constitutional and civil rights of Latinos. Politico sizes up the damage:
The Obama administration’s report found there was “reasonable cause” to believe Arpaio was involved in discriminatory policing practices, such as unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Hispanics; discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited proficiency in English by punishing them and denying certain services; and unlawful retaliation against individuals criticizing the office’s practices.
[…] The Justice Department’s investigation also found evidence that Arpaio’s Maricopa County Sherriff’s Office (MCSO) had used excessive force; did not adequately protect Latino residents, and failed to properly investigate sexual assault allegations.
“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 Justice Department’s 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.”
The Associated Press says Perez called it “the most egregious case of racial profiling in the nation that he has seen or reviewed in professional literature.” Arpaio has until January 4 to agree to a reform plan, or else the Justice Department will sue him.
Millions of dollars of federal funding are at stake. Politico reports that Homeland Security has already reacted by cutting off some programs:
In reaction to the Justice Department’s report, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it would sever ties with the country sherriff’s office on two federal programs that deal with illegal immigration.
“Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust. DHS will not be a party to such practices,” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement Thursday.
As of this writing there’s been no official response from Arpaio. Arizona CBS News affiliate KPHO reported yesterday that there is already a local movement demanding his resignation:
A packed house of protestors attended a Maricopa County Board of Supervisors meeting, where they made another call for Arpaio’s resignation.
“No one would be able to get away with this kind of gross negligence,” said one of the protestors.
Arpaio has been under fire since reports surfaced that his office mishandled more than 400 sex-crimes cases several years ago.
More than 100 Arpaio opponents attended the board meeting including leaders of the group Citizens for a Better Arizona.
“We believe this is the beginning of a process that will end with Sheriff Joe resigning,” said Randy Parraz, with Citizens for a Better Arizona. “It’s up to us now as citizens to hold him accountable and we intend on doing that.”
Parraz said the case against Arapio has been building for years, including a Justice Dept. investigation, ongoing lawsuits to accusations Arpaio misspent more than $100 million in taxpayer money.
Maricopa County Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan claims “the protests are all about Arpaio’s policies on illegal immigration and his opponents are using the old sex crimes cases as a political ploy,” according to KPHO. The release of the Justice Department report will put some potent ammunition in the hands of the Sheriff’s opponents.
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