The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has filed suit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, alleging discriminatory police conduct against Latino citizens.
Federal authorities allege that Arpaio and his office have unconstitutionally and unlawfully targeted Latinos during traffic stops and during crime suppression operations. DOJ alleges that MCSO (Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office) unlawfully detained Latino drivers and passengers and conducted unconstitutional searches and seizures in addition to illegally targeting Latino workers during worksite raids.
DOJ’s suit, filed in the District of Arizona, accuses jail officials of referring to Latinos as “wetbacks,” “Mexican bitches,” and “stupid Mexicans.” The suit says Arpaio “voiced his biased opinion of Latinos and Latino culture” in a book he coauthored in 2008.
“Arpaio singles out Mexicans and Latinos as different from all other immigrant groups in America,” the complaint says. “For example, Arpaio states that Latinos maintain ‘language [,] customs [and] beliefs separate from the mainstream,’ and are trying to “reconquest” American soil through migration to the United States.
The Civil Rights Division actually tried to settle this suit with Arpaio over the past several months, but talks broke off. Faced with no choice, they filed the lawsuit today. And it’s a pretty comprehensive complaint showing a pattern and practice of discriminatory conduct. And in addition to the specific actions against Latino residents with traffic stops and unlawful detentions, the suit alleges that Arpaio’s office has a history of “illegal retaliation against their perceived critics by subjecting them to baseless criminal actions, unfounded civil lawsuits, or meritless administrative actions.” So this is a suit about abuse of power on a number of different levels.
Any resolution from the Civil Rights Division would have to include an end to the illegal detentions and a special master charged with observing the conduct of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. A previous settlement back in 1997 over excessive force against prisoners in Maricopa County lockups clearly did not lead to any lasting change, that’s why we’re back in court again. So Thomas Perez, the head of the Civil Rights Division, says that any new resolution would have to include independent oversight in the implementation of the reforms.
This is a civil and not criminal action, and really all that’s being asked for here is that Arpaio doesn’t continue these practices. This is from the prayer for relief:
Order the Defendants, their officers, agents, and employees to refrain from engaging in any of the predicate discriminatory acts forming the basis of the pattern or practice of unlawful conduct described herein;
Order the Defendants, their officers, agents, and employees to adopt and implement policies, procedures, and mechanisms to remedy the pattern or practice of unlawful conduct described herein, and by specifically addressing, inter alia, the following areas: policies and training; non-discriminatory policing and jail operations; stops, searches, and arrests; response to crimes of sexual violence; posse operations; jail operations; supervision; misconduct complaint intake, investigation, and adjudication; retaliation; oversight and transparency; and community engagement; and
Order such other relief as the interests of justice may require.
I assume that individuals who had their rights violated could sue as well, especially if the DoJ suit emerges successful. But nothing here would put Arpaio in jail for his actions or even throw him out of his position, as far as I can tell.