Justice Dept Report Finds Sheriff Joe Arpaio Violates Civil Rights

The Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice has released its investigative report on Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa Sheriff's Deaprtment. It finds serious civil rights violations. The full report is here.

The report finds "a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations." The Department is seeking a written agreement from the Department and implementation of federal oversight. If it refuses, it will file a civil suit to force compliance. [More...]

The report investigated allegations under:

  • the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994,
  • 42 U.S.C. § 14141 ("Section 14141"), and
  • Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,42 U.S.C. §§ 2000d to 2000d-7 and its implementing regulations.

Section 14141 prohibits law enforcement agencies, such as MCSO, from engaging in activities that amount to a pattern or practice of violating the Constitution or laws of the United States. Title VI and its implementing regulations provide that recipients of federal financial assistance, such as MCSO, may not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

These laws give the United States the authority to file legal action and obtain the necessary relief to ensure compliance with the Constitution and laws of the United States.

First violation: Racial profiling and unconstitutional policing

Based upon our extensive investigation, we find reasonable cause to believe that MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. Specifically, we find that MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Latinos; unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Latinos; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO's policies or practices...

Next, the jail discriminates against Latinos:

We also find reasonable cause to believe that MCSO operates its jails in a manner that discriminates against its limited English proficient ("LEP") Latino inmates. Specifically, we find that MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, detention officers, supervisory staff, and command staff, routinely punishes Latino LEP inmates for failing to understand commands given in English and denies them critical services provided to the other inmates.

The report also finds:

  • a number of troubling incidents involving MCSO deputies using excessive force against Latinos.
  • The Department has created a "wall of distrust" between MCSO officers and Maricopa County's Latino residents-a wall of distrust that has significantly compromised MCSO's ability to provide police protection to Maricopa County's Latino residents"

Some specifics:

  • Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers.
  • One-fifth of the reports, almost all of which involved Latino drivers, contained information indicating that the stops were conducted in violation of the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures.

As to Sheriff Joe, here's a sample of its findings:

Sheriff Arpaio's own actions have helped nurture MCSO's culture of bias. For example, Sheriff Arpaio has frequently distributed racially charged constituent letters, annotating the letters with handwritten notes that appear to endorse the content of the letter, circulating the letters to others on the command staff, and/or saving the letters in his personal file. Many of these letters contain no meaningful descriptions of criminal activity-just crude, ethnically derogatory language about Latinos.
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  • Display: Sort:
    civil suit? (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by womanwarrior on Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 01:01:38 PM EST
    And why not a criminal prosecution?  My clients certainly get charged for a lot less than systematic violation of the civil rights of others by a person with unchecked law enforcement authority. Are they afraid a jury would not convict?

    I reckon (5.00 / 0) (#6)
    by Rojas on Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 07:17:29 PM EST
    Nobody has been able to find the keys to the civil rights division since Janet Reno tossed them in some Florida swamp.

    That's my question, too. (none / 0) (#2)
    by sj on Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 02:05:41 PM EST
    Why no criminal proceedings?  Although I have to be really honest here and admit that I have an inappriopriate thirst for retribution.  I would take immense satisfaction if he were to be subjected to the conditions he has imposed on so many others.

    I hear your sentiments.... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 02:52:38 PM EST
    but we gotta be better than the likes of Sheriff Schmo...if the civil action leads to us finally getting his badge, gun, and arrest powers away so he can misuse and abuse authority no more, we're winners without resorting to Sheriff Schmo-esque deplorable tactics.

    Blessed are the merciful...


    You're right, of course (none / 0) (#4)
    by sj on Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 03:04:52 PM EST
    ::sigh:: I knew my feelings were inappropriate...

    But I still wonder why it's a civil suit.


    I wouldn't say inappropriate... (none / 0) (#5)
    by kdog on Thu Dec 15, 2011 at 03:30:28 PM EST
    it's a rational, and natural, feeling to wish him his karmic draconia due.  To see him reap what he so callously sows with a passion.

    Sh*t if I spent time in his prison camp all my appeals to our better nature would be thrown out my window.  So don't be so hard on yourself:)