Joe Arpaio Accused of "Most Egregious Racial Profling" in the Country

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UPDATE 2: Chris Newman, the Legal Director for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, sends out this statement which I couldn't agree more with:

We are pleased the Department of Justice report compelled the Department of Homeland Security to take steps today that should have been taken years ago. As the DOJ report implies, DHS was an accomplice in the rights violations caused by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. DHS enabled Sheriff Arpaio to conduct his reign of terror, and expansion of the Maricopa Sheriff's approach led to SB 1070 and to the potential Arizonification of the country.

Today, the Department of Justice again acted to clean up the mess caused by failed DHS policies that enlist local police into the business of enforcing unjust immigration laws. It is time for DHS to stop contributing to the civil rights crisis described in the DOJ report and end the programs that made Arpaio's crimes possible.
Chris Newman - National Day Laborer Organizing Network (15 December 2011)
UPDATE: DHS has cut off Arpaio's access to the 287(g) program and to the Secure Communities program, according to Talking Points Memo.

This is huge. It's the first acknowledgement on behalf of the Obama administration that these programs are harmful. Why the Obama administration would role out harmful programs like S-COMM nationwide, that the administration now acknowledges can be abused by nativists like Arpaio, still makes absolutely no sense.

ORIGINAL POST: Almost three full years into the Obama administration's reign, the U.S. Department of Justice has finally issued a report on the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO) which is head by one of the worst nativists in the country, Joe Arpaio. The quote that jumped out at me from all the reports coming in was this, buried in Marc Lacey's New York Times article:

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.
Marc Lacey - New York Times (15 December 2011)

It looks like the report has some teeth, too. As I understand it, Arpaio has until Jan. 4 to respond, and if he refuses to cooperate fully with federal officials to stop this racism then the DOJ will file a civil lawsuit to force compliance, and Arpaio could lose millions in federal funding.
It's good to have folks with the power to do so finally holding Arpaio accountable. It's especially helpful to have such strong and authoritative evidence of the sort of racial profiling that has been alleged at the local level for years.

Still I can't help but ask what in God's name the Obama administration is doing providing someone like Joe Arpaio with the tools to carry out this sort of racial profiling. Arpaio's office has the power to enforce immigration law in a racist manner because of a 287(g) agreement with the Obama administration, and the horrific Secure Communities program, which gives people like Arpaio the incentive to do these broad sweeps of arrests against Latinos.

I can only speculate that this is partly Janet Napolitano and John Morton's fault, who have been barriers to any type of real change at DHS and ICE.  I also think it's partly because the Obama administration doesn't want to admit what a failure it's dangerous immigration policies have been.

I'll paste the full Department of Justice press release, below:

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, December 15, 2011

Department of Justice Releases Investigative Findings on the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

Findings Show Pattern or Practice of Wide-ranging Discrimination Against Latinos and Retaliatory Actions Against Individuals Who Criticized MCSO Activities

WASHINGTON - Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department today announced its findings in the ongoing civil rights investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that MCSO, under the leadership of Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, has engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law. The investigation, opened in June 2008, was conducted under the provisions of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Title VI implementing regulations.

The department found reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas, including:

  • Discriminatory policing practices including unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Latinos;
  • Unlawful retaliation against individuals exercising their First Amendment right to criticize MCSO's policies or practices, including but not limited to practices relating to its discriminatory treatment of Latinos; and
  • Discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited English proficiency by punishing them and denying them critical services.

The Justice Department found a number of long-standing and entrenched systemic deficiencies that caused or contributed to these patterns of unlawful conduct, including:

  • A failure to implement policies guiding deputies on lawful policing practices;
  • Allowing specialized units to engage in unconstitutional practices;
  • Inadequate training;
  • Inadequate supervision;
  • An ineffective disciplinary, oversight and accountability system; and
  • A lack of sufficient external oversight and accountability
.
In addition to these formal pattern or practice findings, the investigation uncovered additional areas of serious concern, including:

  • Use of excessive force;
  • Police practices that have the effect of significantly compromising MCSO's ability to adequately protect Latino residents; and
  • Failure to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assaults.

While no formal findings of pattern or practice violations have been made in connection with these issues, the investigation remains ongoing.

"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 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 department's thorough and independent investigation involved an in-depth review of MCSO practices, as well as extensive community engagement. Department attorneys, investigators and experts conducted interviews with more than 400 individuals including, 75 current and former MCSO supervisors and deputies, including Sheriff Arpaio, and 150 former and current MCSO inmates. In addition, the department reviewed thousands of pages of documents. Many of the interviews and much of this review was delayed when MCSO refused to provide required documents and access. MCSO finally provided the required access and documents after the department filed a lawsuit under Title VI in September 2010.

Addressing the findings, and reforming MCSO, requires a sustained commitment to long term structural, cultural and institutional change. MCSO must develop and implement new policies and procedures and train its officers in effective and constitutional policing. In addition, MCSO must implement systems to ensure accountability, and eliminate unlawful bias from all levels of law enforcement decision making.

The department will seek to obtain a court enforceable agreement and will attempt to work with MCSO and Maricopa County officials to develop and implement a comprehensive reform plan with the judicial oversight needed to address the violations of the Constitution and federal law.

"Effective policing and constitutional policing go hand in hand. Developing and implementing meaningful reforms will assist in reducing crime, ensuring respect for the Constitution, and ensuring that the people of Maricopa County have confidence in MCSO's commitment to fair and effective law enforcement," said Thomas E. Perez. "We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings in a collaborative fashion, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if MCSO chooses a different course of action."

This investigation was conducted by the Special Litigation Section and the Federal Coordination and Compliance Section of the Civil Rights Division with the assistance of law enforcement professionals, including former police chiefs, a jail practices consultant and a consultant on statistical analysis. Members of the Maricopa County community who may wish to provide information to the department in furtherance of this investigation may call 1-877-613-2137 or email community.maricopa@usdoj.gov.

The full report can be found at www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/mcso.php . For more information on the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, please visit www.justice.gov/crt .

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This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on December 15, 2011 12:51 PM.

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