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America’s Toughest Sheriff Still Defiant, Says DOJ Probe “Political”

After the Justice Department charged that Joe Arpaio — who likes to call himself America’s toughest sheriff — discriminated against Latinos and punished those who complained, the cop whose defiance of the Feds became his mantra reacted true to form: he again defied the Feds by labeling the charges “political.”

In a sharply-worded rebuke following a three-year investigation, the Department of Justice said in a letter that the office headed by the larger-than-life sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona (Phoenix) showed “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos” that included “the highest levels of the agency.” The letter also noted that, earlier in its investigation, Arpaio had refused to cooperate and forced the DOJ to sue him, obliging Arpaio and his deputies to cooperate.

The 22-page letter, signed by Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, is addressed to the Maricopa County Attorney. If Arpaio and his office refused to enter into a court-approved settlement agreement, the government would file a lawsuit to compel compliance.

The letter is also seen as the opening salvo of a legal war against Arpaio and his methods. The DOJ is currently conducting a separate federal grand jury investigation into allegations of abuse of power by the department’s public corruption department and for denying the civil rights of those they apprehend or imprison.

Adding yet more weight to the DOJ letter, Arpaio – who has been reelected to his post four times – is up for reelection in 2014. Some observers believe that the growth of the County’s Latino population, and its increasing political sophistication, could spell trouble for the 79-year-old lawman.

The DOJ said the allegations its letter were based on interviewing more than 400 inmates, deputies and others, including Arpaio and his senior deputies, visiting the jail, and reading internal documents numbering into the thousands of pages.

The investigation concluded that Latinos in Maricopa County were receiving “second-class policing services” and that a “culture of bias” exists in Arpaio’s office. At a news briefing, the DOJ spokesman said, “We have to do cultural change and culture change starts with people at the top.”

In a related development, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano – a former governor of Arizona — announced that, as a result of the DOJ’s findings, the federal government would no longer allow Arpaio’s deputies to use the DHS database to check the immigration status of inmates in their custody.

Arpaio’s office has participated in several DHS programs, including one known as 287(g), which empowers local law enforcement officers to enforce Federal immigration law. That program has been widely criticized on a number of grounds, including the local police or sheriff’s lack of experience enforcing complex immigration law. Because of the DOJ investigation, his participation in this program was terminated by the DHS.

The DHS also limited the sheriff’s office’s access to the database it uses for another of its more controversial programs, known as Secure Communities. This program allows local law enforcement agencies to check the immigration status of people it has in custody and to notify the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE), which handles deportation proceedings. The program was designed to identify serious criminals in the US illegally and has been heavily criticized for identifying for deportation people arrested for committing minor crimes, such as speeding or driving with a broken taillight.

The DHS said in a statement, “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is troubled by the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust. DHS will not be a party to such practices. Accordingly, and effective immediately, DHS is terminating MCSO’s 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office access to the Secure Communities program.

“This is a sad day for America as a whole,” Sheriff Arpaio told The New York Times. “We are proud of the work we have done to fight illegal immigration,” he said, adding that he is merely following the law.

But the DOJ investigation found mountains of evidence that the sheriff’s office were practicing the most egregious forms of racial profiling in targeting Latinos.

Their letter said “The absence of clear policies and procedures to ensure effective and constitutional policing, along with the deviations from widely accepted policing and correctional practices, and the failure to implement meaningful oversight and accountability structures, have contributed to a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations.”

The DOJ said that a substantial percentage of the incident reports filed after traffic-related stops suggest that these stops may have violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable seizures.

The report also noted that Sheriff Arpaio had conducted numerous raids targeting illegal immigrants. These raids were highly publicized and were sometimes prompted by complaints simply referred to people with “dark skin” or to Spanish speakers congregating in an area.

“The use of these types of bias-infected indicators as a basis for conducting enforcement activity contributes to the high number of stops and detentions lacking in legal justification,” the report said.

Sheriff Arpaio has become the darling of Republican candidates for the presidency. He has had visits from Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, and Herman Cain, who has since dropped out of the race. Arpaio has endorsed Governor Perry.

Arpaio has won reelection four times by hefty margins. But in recent months, his popularity appears to have somewhat declined due to allegations that his department misappropriated county funds and failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sexual-abuse cases, where many of the complainants were illegal immigrants.

Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Arizona filed a lawsuit challenging the illegal arrest and detention of a U.S. citizen and a legal resident by Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) deputies. It is described below as fairly typical of the tactics used by Arpaio’s officers. It was written by the lawyers for two men who were driving down a public roadway when they were stopped and arrested without justification, and transported to the site of an immigration raid.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona on behalf of Julian Mora, a legal permanent resident who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, and his son Julio Mora, a US citizen, against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County. The lawsuit charges that the MCSO deputies racially profiled the father and son as they drove their pickup truck on a busy public road and illegally arrested and detained them, violating the US Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law and prohibition on unreasonable seizures.

Julian Mora was driving to work when, without provocation, an MCSO vehicle cut in front of him forcing him to stop abruptly. MCSO deputies then ordered the father and son out of their vehicle, then frisked and handcuffed them. Although the deputies had no reason to believe that the Moras had broken any law or were in the country unlawfully, they transported the Moras to Handyman Maintenance, Inc. (HMI), where MCSO was conducting a raid that morning. For the next three hours, the Moras were held in handcuffs at HMI, where they were denied food and water and forbidden contact with the outside world. They were not released until they were interrogated.

The ordeal was particularly humiliating for 66-year-old Julian Mora who, due to his diabetic condition, has difficulty controlling his bladder and had an urgent need to use the bathroom. MCSO personnel, however, rejected his repeated requests. Eventually, deputies escorted him outside where he was made to urinate in the parking lot. MCSO personnel later mocked his son Julio when he had to use the bathroom, because he had difficulty going with his hands still cuffed.

“To this day, I don’t know why the officers stopped us out of all the cars on the road,” said 19-year-old Julio Mora. “We were treated like criminals and never told why. I was very scared. I never thought something like this would happen to me. Now I know it can happen to anyone, citizens too. I don’t think it’s fair.”

The federal lawsuit was settled when Arpaio’s lawyer agreed to a $200,000 payout to the Moras.

There are more than a thousand other lawsuits pending against Arpaio and his office. Many of these types of suits have been settled out of court, limiting the availability of details. But the cost of the settlements to the County are substantial.

The DOJ investigation has focused on the Sheriff’s office (MCSO’s) compliance with 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 at 28 C.F.R. § 42.101 et seq. (“Title VI”). 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.

William Fisher has managed economic development programs for the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America, Asia and elsewhere for the past 25 years. He has supervised major multi-year projects for AID in Egypt, where he lived and worked for three years. He returned later with his team to design Egypt’s agricultural strategy. Fisher served in the international affairs area in the administration of President John F. Kennedy. He began his working life as a reporter and bureau chief for the Daytona Beach News-Journal and the Associated Press in Florida. He now reports on a wide-range of issues for a number of online journals.

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6 Responses for “America’s Toughest Sheriff Still Defiant, Says DOJ Probe “Political””

  1. Dave Francis says:

    Controversial subject of illegal immigration and the Iowa Debate

    Birthright citizens, and naturalized citizens have the ability to vote to change America forever, but we must scrutinize voting registrations for the 2012 election cycle for a President. Over and over again Democrats with Liberal ties have been caught numerous times, using such radical groups such as Acorn to steal political races with illegal alien registrations. Voter fraud is here to stay, unless the federal government makes it impossible to defraud citizen voters of their inherent rights, by demanding the use of a National ID card that could be used for many other purposes. The old Social Security number has been badly compromised, as we have seen with a yearly tally of hundreds of thousands of Americans fighting to save their credit, as its been procured by foreign nationals to steal jobs, as well as peoples good credit, then using it for nefarious purposes.

    The Department of Justice, Eric Holder has showed his noticeable mark by mirroring the NAACP that having to show official picture ID is racist. Holder has shown his true colors as a far left progressive, by propelling his judgment against the right of sovereign states to identify registered voters with government documents like an ID card, and his now relentless pursuit against Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Utah and in probability North Carolina for adopting policing laws within their borders against illegal aliens. I THINK MOST PATRIOTIC AMERICANS WAOULD LIKE TO SEE ERIC HOLDER IMPEACHED, for his unnecessary impact of suing states, trying to stop illegal aliens squatting there and the ‘Gun Walking’ storm. If holder joins the jobless lines, maybe he would have a better understanding of Americans looking for work, while company owners are still employing foreigners who should not even be here? Soon—these unconcerned businesses will be in the spotlight, when ICE raids uncover the scheming in unlawful employment and have to face harsh sanctions if caught. Not excluded is the irrational “witch Hunt” against steely Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, that the Obama administration has using intimidation along with radical open border organizations.

    In the Iowa nationally televised debate yesterday evening I did not see Rep. Michele Bachmann brought into the discussion on illegal immigration? Was it by chance I missed it, while digging in the refrigerator for Soy milk or was the TEA PARTY chairperson deliberately left out of this most controversial issue, that is vastly becoming manifest amongst the tens of millions of physical Conservatives? Newt Gingrich had his say relating to the 20 million illegal migrant and immigrant population already residing here and that it was unreasonable to deport foreign nationals who have lived in America for 25 years. Gingrich also added that the administration should get off the back of States that are being persecuted for their stand against illegal immigration; included he said that the fence would be completed between US-Mexico by 2014 (Is that the real 2006 Secure Double layer border fence) and that Sanctuary Cities (State such as California, Nevada, Colorado and New York) would be punished with loss of federal funds.

    Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who has been Gingrich’s main political principal rival partner in recent debates, defended the U.S. Immigration and citizenship Services E-Verify program proposing identification cards for all “non-resident aliens” working here. Texas Gov. Then Rick Perry who was attacked by verbal flak last September for defending in-state university tuition to illegal immigrants, who were either smuggled into the US, as the unborn or who were brought into the country as children and attend public schools in Texas. Romney concluded on this heated subject, “I’ve sent Texas Ranger recon teams there. Our law enforcement men and women face fire from across the border, or in the U.S. side, from the drug cartels,” Perry said. “It is not safe there.”

    Both Gingrich, Romney has forgotten one important factor; that these words are the initiative that will draw even more illegal aliens if we don’t enforce our laws; finding a way to get to public welfare and entitlement America? As I have already mentioned, unless I was absent from the TV set at the time, that Michele Bachmann was left out of this part of the commentary. As the Major TEA PARTY leader her resume has proven her worth to stifle spending in Massachusetts, as well been an arbiter of reducing the $15 Trillion treasury deficit and has a commanding vote in opposition to superfluous issues in the House of Representatives. She is a strong opponent of the archaic tax code, which must be replaced with fair taxation for all; without any exemptions, subsidies for the wealth corporations and industries of special interests lobbyists.

    Rep. Dan Boren (D-Ok) is the third Democrat cosponsoring Chairman Lamar Smith’s Legal Workforce Act (H.R.2885.) Originally Smith required 100 co-sponsors to pass the bill. The numbers have currently grown, 72, so as a result all we need to get this extremely important bill to the House chambers is just 28. The bill would require 100% of businesses to begin using E-Verify for all new hires within 2 years and require all federal, state, and local governments to check new hires and existing employees within 6 months. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has launched Records and Information from DMVs for E-Verify (RIDE), a new aspect which allows USCIS’s E-Verify plan to approve the validness of Mississippi driver’s licenses used by employees as Form I-9 identity documents. RIDE mirrors a obligation to continually improving E-Verify,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “This important enhancement strengthens E-Verity’s anti-fraud capabilities and will introduce a key role in helping employers in the United States to maintain a legal workforce.”

    Make yourself known by contacting Washington at 202-224-3121, or you can read about this indignation at NumbersUSA website of the $113 billion dollars spend yearly on illegal immigration

    The bill is a concrete proposal and has a lot of support in the U.S. House, with 80 co-sponsors. It is one of the “five great immigration solutions” many politicians are standing for this year. THE GENUINE 2006 SECURE FENCE ACT; double 15 foot high fence, for fast track lanes in between for the US Border Patrol to use. However, they need a lot more momentum to win. Rep. King’s bill, H.R. 140, that would require Congress to elucidate the meaning of the 14th Amendment and thereby ending the practice of automatically granting U.S. citizenship to all U.S.-born children of illegal aliens. We don’t need a Constitutional amendment. Without an amendment the US taxpayers are the recipients of the law, which allows an estimated 340.000 babies to become instant citizens annually adding to the growing deficit, to support these children and the Mother. This is the most expensive entitlement law attributed to illegal immigration occupation.

    Other than Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011, that would stop the misinterpreted practice of instant citizenship to children of illegal alien parents, the Mandatory E-Verify will end incurable business owners from hiring cheap foreign labor, instead of the 22 million American workers looking for a ‘Help needed” Sign. Now there’s more proof that Americans want to abolish automatic citizenship for the children of illegal aliens. .A new Rasmussen poll shows that 65% of likely U.S. voters oppose birthright citizenship.

    Demand the Keystone pipeline between Canada and the oil refineries in Texas, before China gets its hands on it. Start reducing our supplies from countries that are not specifically friendly to us.

  2. Rolando Mota says:

    MCSO is violating the 4th amendment and i am very glad to see that the United States Department of Justice is taking action on the racist,and incompetent Joe Arpaio. His tactics are in violation of the 1964 Civil rights act and the1968 Omnibus Crime control and Safe streets act. It comes to no surprise that there are still over 1000 lawsuits against the MCSO. The department is using these funds unconstitutionally and violating the rights of law abiding US citizens.The Sherriff’s radical ideology is coming to an end and is not accepted by the majority of US general public. Despite the conservative right wing sponsorships and endorsements the general public does not find the nazi like philosophy of Arpaio appealing at all. To build a “Berlin” type wall on the US borders will be taking steps backwards in the evolution of humanity. It is a disgrace to even mention and boast about this Hitler type Sherriff be supported by crooked politicians like Gingrich,Bachman,Perry,and Romney. Unless you are a Native American, at one point and time you were an immigrant also. The Keystone pipeline in theory is supposed to employ roughly 20,000 people compared to the millions currently unemployed. This is an underlying attempt to fulfill the agenda of a 1 %social status corporation. Why should the American People allow a Canadian company to further ruin the American Eco system and sell oil to other parts of the world when our gas prices are at all time highs. ? To name a few things President Obama has ended the decade war in Iraq, helped saved 1.6 million auto industry jobs, and continues to try and fight for the working class Americans. Taxes have been cut for the 1% and corporations since Bush and they still are outsourcing jobs overseas??? The government employs and takes care of more people than any corporation ever could.

  3. believe it says:

    ILEGAL is just that and you have zero rights in this country , the DOJ needs to be shut down due to how corrupt it has become , if you believe anyone that is in country should be afforded the same rights as American citizen then you would have to allow all criminals out of jail because ILEGAL no longer means any thing , pick you poison , enforce the laws of the land or don’t enforce any at all.

  4. M.L.Howell says:

    I have twice been a Guest of Maricopa County, both times for DUI’s. Did it suck! Heck yes it did! In fact, one night, when I was in the tents, it happened to be the coldest night of the year so far. Someone had taken my blanket & some of them had three or four. I had never before and have never since experienced such a bone-chilling cold that, even though you can’t entirely feel your apendages, the seem to be burning. It really sucked and, you know what? I Got Behind The Wheel of My Car When I Was Intoxicated!!! And there are consequences for actions. And there actually was a D.O. the last time that needs a serious attitude adjustment. Suck it up! Wearing pink? Embarrassing? Who cares? They’re all wearing it! It’s not like it “labels” you in some way (like a big tattooed up biker walked into a bar). They’re clothes. Get over it.
    As for Arpaio, the best metaphor I can come up with is this: Have you ever been in a supervisory position with a large number of staff? Let’s say you’re the bar manager in a busy night club & supervise 10 bartenders, 5 security guards, 3 door monitors, 2 barbacks and 15 cocktail servers. If you get a customer complaint about one of your bartenders; let’s say, the customer calls you the next day and before the story starts, I guarantee that you are, because of the nature of the place, location, business, or whatever, your inclination will be to back up your bartender. Now, if there is a reason to suspect your bartender of doing what the customer said they did, then you investigate it. And you’re certainly not going to admit anything or say anything without having completed the investiation. Now consider the sheer number of and the egos, issues and God-complexes of some officers and do the math!
    The feds weren’t enforcing the law. Arizona passed a law. The Sheriff has upheld that law. And one final point, if I, a white female, over 40, get stopped for any reason, the law requires that I have my State issued identification in my possession. If I don’t, I GET A TICKET!!! Or cited, you get the idea. Now, if I were a Hispanic woman over 40 I would be asked the same questions, expected to produce the same documentation and get the same ticket.
    I am so painfully tired of people whining about the green bologna and pink underwear and blah blah blah… And I am quite sure that new policies and procedures should be drafted and submitted for review. I agree that it may be time for a complete internal personnel audit. I believe that citizens should be afforded the opportunity to complain or praise. But the thing is, someone in this country illegally DOES NOT get to scream civil rights violation! You are not a citizen here…you are not covered under civil rights laws here. If you don’t like the jails, don’t do anything to end up there. And for goodness sake, let the man do his job! The DHS has needed a time-out for a decade now…I think they should go stand in the corner for a while and think about the damage all of this will cause to the morale and motivation of all law enforcement to ACTIVELY enforce the laws passed by the citizens. Yet everyone complains that law enforcement is never there when you need them. Well, pick one…

  5. Vince says:

    The Dem Atty General is doing a smear job on all American citizens when he attacks a Sheriff like Arpaio in Az., and distorts Az State Law Mr. Holder and Obama intend to destroy our ability to enforce the laws that protect citizens! What hurts the most is as long as there are radical people like these in power, we taxpayers have to pay for our own government’s war against us! We also have to live in the impossible chaos our government creates for us against our common sense…

  6. Jetexas says:

    To have the biggest criminal of all running a jail and abusing , sometimes killing people it has gone to far. People complain about undocumented immigrants when they have the biggest liar and thief running their jails? The biggest complaint which is a lie is that immigrants are robbing the American people? What do they think Joe has been doing to the tune of Millions of dollars. Joe has committed illegal acts and he should be locked up.Not to mention the fact that the serious offenders have been ignored by Joe how is that protecting the people. AZ should be so disgusted and embarrassed to let the man get away with murder & robbed them more than any race or group of people could have. He can not be trusted and pray that a family member or you don’t end up in his jail.

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