Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Accused Of Unfairly Targeting Hispanics

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has released a harsh assessment of the practices of the Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriffs Department, which happens to be led by a man who has become something of a darling of the right:

PHOENIX — In a harshly worded critique of the country’s best-known sheriff, the Justice Department accused Joe Arpaio of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of engaging in “unconstitutional policing” by unfairly targeting Latinos for detentions and arrests and retaliating against those who complain.

After an investigation that lasted more than two years, the civil rights division of the Justice Department said the sheriff’s office has “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos” that “reaches the highest levels of the agency.” The department interfered with the inquiry, the government said, prompting a lawsuit that eventually led Mr. Arpaio and his deputies to cooperate.

“We have peeled the onion to its core,” said Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, noting during a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning that more than 400 people were interviewed as part of the review. Mr. Perez said the inquiry raised the question of whether Latinos were receiving “second-class policing services” in Maricopa County.

The report stems from a civil inquiry and Mr. Perez said he hoped that Mr. Arpaio would cooperate with the federal government in turning the department around. Should he refuse, a lawsuit will be filed, Mr. Perez said, adding that the Justice Department is conducting a separate criminal inquiry of the department.

Mr. Arpaio was singled out for criticism in the report, which faulted him as distributing racially charged letters and e-mails he had received and helping to nurture the department’s “culture of bias.”

The findings, which Mr. Arpaio is sure to contest, paint a picture of a department staffed by poorly trained deputies who target Latino drivers on the roadways and detain innocent Latinos in the community in their searches for illegal immigrants. The mistreatment, the government said, extends to the jails the department oversees, where Latino inmates who do not speak English were mistreated.

“The absence of clear policies and procedures to ensure effective and constitutional policing, along with the deviations from widely accepted policing and correctional practices, and the failure to implement meaningful oversight and accountability structures, have contributed to a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations,” the report said.

The report said that Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped in the sprawling county, which includes Phoenix and its environs, than non-Latino drivers. The expert who conducted the study called it the most egregious racial profiling he has ever seen in this country, said Mr. Perez, the prosecutor.

The report said that roughly one-fifth of the traffic-related incident reports generated by the department’s human smuggling unit contained information indicating the stops may have been conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizures.

The report also suggested that Mr. Arpaio’s well-publicized raids aimed at arresting illegal immigrants were sometimes prompted by complaints that described no criminal activity but referred to people with “dark skin” or Spanish speakers congregating in an area. “The use of these types of bias-infected indicators as a basis for conducting enforcement activity contributes to the high number of stops and detentions lacking in legal justification,” the report said.

It’s been clear for years that Arpaio is a man who has little respect for the Constitutional rights of the accused, and even less when those accused happen to have brown skin and speak with an accent. One would like to think that this would finally be the thing that gets him out of office after being overwhelmingly elected five times, but that may be asking too much of the residents of Maricopa County.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Crime, Law and the Courts, Quick Takes, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020.

Comments

  1. Rob in CT says:

    Shocking. Really. Joe Arpacio targets Hispanics? Who knew?

  2. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Arpaio can’t win for losing. Back in the 1990’s he angered and dispirited liberal idiots in the media and on college campuses for his harsh yet amazingly-effective tactics against largely a collection of white trash criminals. Of course that was back before the issue of illegal immigration was de rigueur among the faux cognoscente of the chattering classes. Then in the middle part of the last decade Arpaio started angering and dispiriting liberal idiots anew with a series of operations targeting illegal immigrants. You didn’t need a ouija board to predict there would be shrill cries of racism and xenophobia. Now lo and behold Eric Holder’s Justice Department is after him. Shocking. The very same Justice Deparment that’s thrilled us with the likes of the Fast & Furious, Boeing and Gibson Guitars scandals. Arpaio’s got his faults, to be sure, but it would appear his greatest crime is being a Republican who wins elections.

  3. Hey Norm says:

    “…a man who has become something of a darling of the right…”

    Eggzachary.

  4. mantis says:

    Let’s not forget that his department doesn’t bother to investigate sex crimes if they involve Hispanics, probably as a matter of policy.

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Arpaio’s got his faults, to be sure, but it would appear his greatest crime is being a Republican who wins elections.

    Actually, it’s being a racist asshole with no respect for constitutional rights. If there is any justice in this world, he will end up behind bars himself.

  5. de stijl says:

    It would be sweet, sweet irony if good ol’ Sheriff Joe got to spend time in his own tent-city clink.

    In August.

  6. Here’s one for the “No #@&^, Sherlock” file.

  7. It’s been clear for years that Arpaio is a man who has little respect for the Constitutional rights of the accused, and even less when those accused happen to have brown skin and speak with an accent. One would like to think that this would finally be the thing that gets him out of office after being overwhelmingly elected five times, but that may be asking too much of the residents of Maricopa County.

    The problem is that his lack of “respect for the Constitutional rights of the accused, and even less when those accused happen to have brown skin and speak with an accent” is the main reason why he was “overwhelmingly elected five times”.

  8. MM says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    but it would appear his greatest crime is being a Republican who wins elections.

    His greatest crime is that he’s concerned more with demagoguing and winning elections than doing his job. Hundreds of felony warrants go unserved by the MCSO, yet he has time to bust the dishwashers at a restaurant.

  9. bandit says:

    You’d think the justice dept would have the same concerns about Eric Holder after F&F. But it’s OK when the most corrupt AG of all time is “a racist asshole with no respect for constitutional rights.”

  10. Peacewood says:

    I’ll bet Arizona citizens are now curious about the moist state of water and the exact location of a bear’s privy.

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The problem is that his lack of “respect for the Constitutional rights of the accused, and even less when those accused happen to have brown skin and speak with an accent” is the main reason why he was “overwhelmingly elected five times”.

    Mr. Nail? Meet Mr Hammer.

  12. WR says:

    @bandit: “The most corrupt attorney general of all time.”

    You’re not stupid. Why pretend you are?

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @bandit:

    Bandit, you do realize there was a very similar program under Bush? Don’t you? Bandit?

  14. de stijl says:

    @bandit:

    You may want to Google John Mitchell.

  15. CB says:

    But it’s OK when the most corrupt AG of all time…

    truly sorry for biting on troll bait, but are you f#@$%&!? kidding me??