by Dan Gibson
More to come on this later, I imagine, but the Department of Justice has some deep issues with Joe Arpaio and the way he runs the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department:
Following a comprehensive investigation, the Justice Department today announced its findings in the ongoing civil rights investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that MCSO, under the leadership of Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, has engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law. The investigation, opened in June 2008, was conducted under the provisions of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Title VI implementing regulations.
The department found reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas, including:
• Discriminatory policing practices including unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Latinos;
• Unlawful retaliation against individuals exercising their First Amendment right to criticize MCSO’s policies or practices, including but not limited to practices relating to its discriminatory treatment of Latinos; and
• Discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited English proficiency by punishing them and denying them critical services.
The Justice Department found a number of long-standing and entrenched systemic deficiencies that caused or contributed to these patterns of unlawful conduct, including:
• A failure to implement policies guiding deputies on lawful policing practices;
• Allowing specialized units to engage in unconstitutional practices;
• Inadequate training;
• Inadequate supervision;
• An ineffective disciplinary, oversight and accountability system; and
• A lack of sufficient external oversight and accountability.
In addition to these formal pattern or practice findings, the investigation uncovered additional areas of serious concern, including:
• Use of excessive force;
• Police practices that have the effect of significantly compromising MCSO’s ability to adequately protect Latino residents; and
• Failure to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assaults.
While no formal findings of pattern or practice violations have been made in connection with these issues, the investigation remains ongoing.
“MCSO’s systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections has created a wall of distrust between the sheriff’s office and large segments of the community, which dramatically compromises the ability to protect and serve the people,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO’s culture, and are compounded by MCSO’s penchant for retaliation against individuals who speak out.”
The Department of Justice plans to seek an enforceable agreement to make reforms within the Sheriff's Office, but if Arpaio refuses, they mention that they won't "hesitate to take appropriate legal action". The full report is available at the Department of Justice's website.