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Justice Department Suing Sheriff Joe

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (with thanks to Creative Commons)

Originally published May 10, 2012

The Department of Justice has finally gotten tired of trying to be co-operative and rational in dealing with Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio. They are going to sue him.

The DoJ had to find a way to deal with hundreds of complaints about racial discrimination in the Sheriff’s Office, ranging from vigilante sweeps of “illegals” to racial profiling to failure to investigate crimes committed against Hispanics. They tried to find a way to work out these problems without shutting down the Sheriff’s Office and turning law enforcement in Maricopa County over to the Federal Marshal’s Office or the National Guard, which is the most extreme response to a corrupt law enforcement agency. But Arpaio has fought them tooth and nail all through the investigation and is resisting the least intrusive involvement of the DoJ in “his” department.

So, it is time to prove to Joe Arpaio that it is not “his” department, but the law enforcement agency of the people of Maricopa County and that includes the Hispanic population. Maricopa County is 58.7% white and 31.7% Hispanic and Native American. Arpaio has chosen to be the Sheriff of the 60% at the expense of the 30% and that is both unethical and illegal.

The agreement the DoJ originally reached with Arpaio called for training for deputies in how to make constitutional traffic stops, how to collect data on people arrest in traffic stops, how to rebuild the department’s relationship with the Hispanic community, an essential factor in fighting drug smuggling and distribution. Arpaio was supposed to reopen over 400 rape and sexual assault cases involving Hispanic women and children, and make arrests. There was supposed to be a court-appointed monitor to make sure that the training was carried through in daily implementation.

Arpaio refuses to permit the monitor. He says it would demean his authority by putting every decision through the monitor instead of being issued by him. It has also been revealed through audio tapes of his speeches outside of Arizona that he has no intention of complying with the DoJ or pulling back on any of his racist policies.

The DoJ informed Arpaio’s lawyer on April 3rd that the refusal to accept the court monitor was a deal breaker, and on May 9th, Assistant U. S. Attorney General Thomas Perez notified Arpaio’s lawyers of the DoJ’s “intent to file civil action.” Perez, head of the DoJ Civil Rights Division, filed its findings with the Maricopa Sheriff’s Office more than 100 days earlier, and Arpaio’s lawyers have ignored requests for meetings since February.

Arpaio came out swinging, as always. At a news conference, he accused the DoJ of breaking off communication. “If they sue, we’ll go to court, and then we’ll find out the real story…They’re telling me how to run my organization. I’d like to get this resolved, but I’m not going to give up my authority to the Federal government. It’s as simple as that.”

He may be running out of time to bluster and fume at Federal authority. Arpaio is implicated in a conspiracy to investigate and bring criminal charges against his political opponents. His co-conspirator has been disbarred. Civil suits have been filed and criminal charges are being debated. And then there’s the election in November.

The citizens of Maricopa County must decide if backing Joe Arpaio is still in their best interests. It’s been kind of exciting to be the home of “America’s toughest sheriff” and have television shows and fading movie stars highlighting Arpaio’s work. But what is being showcased now is not flattering to Maricopa County, particularly the idea that the Sheriff’s Office refused to investigate charges of child sexual abuse in the Hispanic community because Arpaio hates Hispanics and doesn’t give a damn what happens to them. In Pima County, Sheriff Clarence Dupnik has proven that all Arizonans don’t share Arpaio’s racist hatred, and his department vigorously investigates crimes against Hispanics, even as right wingers like Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly call for his recall for being a “leftist activist.” Arpaio, who will shortly turn 80, is seeking re-election this fall. The voters of Maricopa County can put their county out of its misery or they can support this corrupt, racist, strutting peacock who thinks Maricopa County is his personal kingdom and he has no obligation to abide by the Constitution of either Arizona or the United States.

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