DOJ: Civil Rights Violations Widespread Under Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

The Maricopa (Arizona) County Sheriff’s Office, headed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, engages in “the most egregious racial profiling in the United States,” according to an expert hired by the U.S. Department of Justice.

At a press conference in Phoenix today, Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez announced the results of a three-year-long investigation by the DOJ.

Demonstrator at 2010 rally in Phoenix, protesting SB-1070 (copyright Osha Gray Davidson)

The DOJ concluded that the controversial “Sheriff Joe” (as he likes to be called) routinely violates the Constitution and laws of the United States by discriminating against Latinos. Arpaio, who is a strong backer of anti-immigrant policies, including Arizona’s law, SB-1070,  has denied that he racially profiles. According to the DOJ’s expert, however, records show that Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be stopped by the MCSO than non-Latinos under identical circumstances.

Violations by the Sheriff’s department goes well beyond racial profiling. The MCSO also illegally retaliates against people who criticize the organization, the investigation found.

“People opposed to the Department’s policies were frequently arrested and jailed for no reason,” said Perez. In the Sheriff’s jails, Spanish-speaking inmates were then punished for not complying with orders, given in English, that they did not understand — a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

“In short,” said the DOJ Attorney, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office “is broken.”

Perez concluded his statement by stressing that his office wants to work with the MCSO to fix the many serious problems that exist there. “It’s is clear to me that this community is divided,” he said, “and needs to heal.”

But, should the MCSO refuse to cooperate, Perez warned, “we will not hesitate to take prompt, appropriate legal action.”

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