The Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit in federal court today against Maricopa County, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, arising from unconstitutional and unlawful actions.
The lawsuit follows a investigation initiated, in June 2008. On Dec. 15, 2011, the department issued a 22 page letter of findings, which found reasonable cause that MCSO and Sheriff Arpaio were engaged in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law. Following the issuance of the letter of findings, the department attempted to reach a resolution with MCSO and Sheriff Arpaio, negotiations were unsuccessful, primarily because MCSO and Sheriff Arpaio refused to agree to any independent oversight by a monitor.
The complaint alleges that Maricopa County, MCSO and Sheriff Arpaio engaged in and continue to engage in a pattern or practice of:
· Discriminatory and otherwise unconstitutional law enforcement actions against Latinos who are frequently stopped, detained and arrested on the basis of race, color, or national origin;
· Discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited English skills; and
· Illegal retaliation against their perceived critics, subjecting them to baseless criminal actions, unfounded civil lawsuits, or meritless administrative actions.
According to the complaint, since approximately 2006, MCSO and Sheriff Arpaio have intentionally and systematically discriminated against Latinos. They have accomplished this by stopping Latinos in their vehicles four to nine times more often than non-Latino drivers. In addition, MCSO stops Latinos on the county’s roads without the required legal justification. Also, MCSO detains and searches Latinos on the roads, in their homes, and in their workplaces without legal justification for doing so. Further, MCSO mistreats Latino detainees with limited English proficiency by ignoring important requests if they are not made in English and punishing detainees if they fail to understand orders given in English.
Additionally, the complaint alleges that the conduct is the product of a culture of disregard for Latinos that starts at the top and pervades the organization. MCSO employees frequently use derogatory terms to refer to Latinos, and Sheriff Arpaio and MCSO supervisors, through their words and actions, set the tone and create a culture of bias that contributes to unlawful actions.
In the complaint, the department seeks declaratory and injunctive relief that would ensure that MCSO implements policies and procedures to prevent the pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct identified in the complaint.
In light of the deeply rooted nature of the problems facing MCSO, the complaint seeks a host of reforms, including a court order requiring that the defendants:
· Develop and implement new policies and procedures and train MCSO officers in effective and constitutional policing;
· Implement systems to ensure accountability and improve the quality of policing throughout the county; and
· Eliminate unlawful bias from all levels of law enforcement decision.
Arizona’s Sheriff Arpaio and His Office Sued by U.S. Govt for Discriminating Against Latinos