In a stinging report, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division released their findings of a two-year investigation into Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, showing that he unfairly targeted Latinos and discriminated against them at the expense of other crimes in his jurisdiction, including sexual assault crimes.
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.
I think there’s enough evidence for a criminal investigation already. Here’s the DoJ release on the report. As you can see, it includes what the Department specifically terms “unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law.” The report charges that:
• The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) unlawfully pulled over, arrested and detained Latinos in a coordinated fashion;
• Retaliated against anyone who criticized the office for these discriminatory policies; and
• Punished Latino detainees who had limited English skills, and denied them required services, including medical attention.
The investigation also turned up evidence of excessive force used by Sheriff Office personnel, and a failure to investigate crimes against Latinos, as well as allegations of sexual assault. Arpaio’s boys were too busy punishing Latinos for their brown skin to pay attention to actual crimes taking place in their community. Arpaio himself was cited for passing around constituent emails with clear racist overtones, and highlighting passages in a way that it looked he gave his endorsement to them.
The Constitution is pretty clear on cruel and unusual punishment, and this document details a pattern and practice of it in the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Arpaio, who has endorsed Rick Perry for President, is seen as a darling on the right, and awarded himself the term “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” If by “toughest” you mean “most unconstitutional,” I agree.
The entire report is here. Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division and one of the better public servants in the executive branch, said in a statement, “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. The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO’s culture, and are compounded by MCSO’s penchant for retaliation against individuals who speak out.”
The result of the investigation, which as mentioned DoJ had to go to court to obtain the proper access, is that DoJ wants a court enforceable agreement on reforming the Sheriff’s office and stop constitutional violations. If that doesn’t work – and considering Arpaio tried to stop DoJ from even investigating him, I have little confidence it will work – Perez said he is prepared to “take appropriate legal action.”
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