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DoJ: Sheriff Arpaio of Arizona Violated Civil Rights

Posted by T. Resnikoff // December 15th 2011 // Issues and Trends, Social Justice // no comments

Three years into its investigation of practices of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department, the United States Department of Justice issued a report detailing systematic Civil Rights violations. The Justice Department also announced that it will sue for compliance if  Arpaio does not agree to court supervision.


From CNN: Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, under the leadership of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, has engaged in systemic discrimination against Latinos with practices that violate federal law and the Constitution, the U.S. Justice Department announced Thursday. (Full story)


From the Huffington Post: A review done as part of the investigation found that 20 percent of traffic reports handled by Arpaio’s immigrant-smuggling squad from March 2006 to March 2009 were stops – almost all involving Latino drivers – that were done without reasonable suspicion. The squad’s stops rarely led to smuggling arrests. (Full story)

Some details from the DOJ report:

  • Federal investigators focused heavily on the language barriers in Arpaio’s jails.
  • Latino inmates with limited English skills were punished for failing to understand commands in English by being put in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day or keeping prisoners locked down in their jail pods for as long as 72 hours without a trip to the canteen area or making nonlegal phone calls.
  • The report said some jail officers used racial slurs for Latinos when talking among themselves and speaking to inmates.
  • Detention officers refused to accept forms requesting basic daily services and reporting mistreatment when the documents were completed in Spanish and pressured Latinos with limited English skills to sign forms that implicate their legal rights without language assistance.

The Justice Department report requires Arpaio to set up effective policies against discrimination, improve training and make other changes that would be monitored for compliance by a judge. Arpaio faces a Jan. 4 deadline for saying whether he wants to work out an agreement. If not, the federal government will sue him and let a judge decide the complaint.

Comments by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Investigative Findings Announcement.




About the Author

Ted Resnikoff is the Digital Communications Editor at the Unitarian Universalist Association.
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