The U.S. Department of Justice Thursday morning accused the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office of engaging in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing, including racial profiling in traffic stops, immigration operations and discriminating against Spanish speakers in the county jails.
In a 22-page letter addressed to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery the DOJ issued an ultimatum: come to a voluntary court-enforceable agreement to stop the unconstitutional practices, or face a lawsuit under provisions of federal Civil Rights Act.
According to the DOJ letter sent to Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office the investigation found the following civil rights violations, as reported by the Arizona Republic:
- Hispanics were routinely targeted for traffic stops without reasonable cause, and subsequently charged with immigration-related crimes. Legal residents were sometimes treated as if they were illegal immigrants and even jailed.
- Latino inmates with poor or no English proficiency were frequently punished for not understanding English, were required to fill out forms in a language they did not understand or were denied critical services available to English-speaking inmates.
- Community activists and critics who spoke out against the Sheriff’s Office’s treatment of Hispanics were themselves targeted for retaliation.
- The Justice Department also found that the Sheriff’s Office did not adequately train or supervise its personnel to avoid civil rights violations and, in fact, permitted the specialized units to engage in unconstitutional behavior.
Julianne Hing, Colorlines.com’s immigration reporter says the news doesn’t come as a surprise.
"For folks who are at all familiar with Sheriff Arpaio’s nasty tactics, none of the DOJ’s revelations are actually brand new," Hing said about the DOJ findings.
"He engages in racial profiling, condones excessive force from his officers, and retaliates harshly against anyone who speaks out against him," Hing went on to say. "He ignores actual, serious crime to hunt down undocumented immigrants. This is his brand. His anti-immigrant rhetoric is not just bravado; he will do just about anything for the cameras."
Hing went on to add the federal government has enabled Arpaio’s actions.
"The federal government contracted Arpaio, with programs like 287(g) to use his police officers to enforce immigraiton law. Now they’re chasing after him to reign him in."
Below you’ll find the DOJ letter sent to Maricopa County with details of their investigation.