Federal Judge Imposes Monitor on Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Office
By Valeria Fernández
New America Media
PHOENIX, Ariz. — Daniel Magos was relieved when a federal judge found last May that Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office engaged in racial profiling of Latinos during traffic stops and patrol operations.
The 68-year-old U.S. citizen, who is a plaintiff in a long-standing class action lawsuit, testified during a trial about his own experience four years ago when a county deputy pulled him over allegedly with no reason, asked his wife for ID and patted him down.
A federal judge said Friday that he will impose a monitor on the law-enforcement agency to ensure the violations don’t reoccur, but sheriff Joe Arpaio faces an arduous task ahead to rebuild trust with Latinos like Magos.
“I don’t think they’ll ever trust him again completely,” said Magos. “Like myself I don’t trust anything he thinks or does. After doing it for so many years, I don’t think he’ll change.”
Federal judge Murray Snow is expected to issue a judgment later this month that would include a court-appointed monitor, training, data collection of traffic stops and the use of video cameras in patrols.
The 2007 lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) cast a light on the impact of community policing when police plays a federal immigration role.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys accused Arpaio’s agency of engaging in a pattern of discrimination against Latinos, specifically targeting them during routine traffic stops as part of a broader crackdown on illegal immigration.
That crackdown, spearheaded by Arpaio, involved what he called “saturation patrols” – essentially broad immigration sweeps in mostly Latino neighborhoods – and began in 2007, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deputized 160 of his officers to enforce immigration law.
On Friday, Magos sat attentively inside a Phoenix courtroom as Snow peppered attorneys from both parties with questions over a proposed resolution that they worked on for months.
There were several areas of agreement, but two of the key points of contention involved the appointment of the court monitor –which Snow said he would support- and the creation of a Community Advisory Board.
“We do not want a court…created body that would be quoted by the media to the public saying he (Arpaio) is not doing what judge Murray says,” argued Tim Casey, the lead defense attorney for Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Casey equated the creation of such a board to throwing a Molotov cocktail and said it would add fuel to the fire rather than help mend bridges with the Latino community. He also argued that the public will have the perception that it [Community Advisory Board] has authority over the sheriff’s office because it was appointed by the federal court.
Daniel Pochoda, the lead attorney for ACLU said in court that the reluctance of the sheriff’s office to work with a community board reflects “the sheriff anti-Latino attitude.”
“None of those community boards have any power, they can’t order the department to do anything,” said Pochoda to NAM, about the concerns raised by Casey. Pochoda argued that this has been used in the past to help communities work with law-enforcement in instances in which the relationship has been severed.
The proposed board would have six members, with three members appointed by each party.
Detecting racial profiling
Improved data collection, better supervision and accountability by officers was at the heart of the negotiations between both parties in the lawsuit and there were some points of agreement.
But, during the hearing, ACLU attorneys argued for specific changes in the way the sheriff’s office collects data of traffic stops; for example, they asked that deputies disclose to a dispatcher the reason for a stop just like they report a license plate.
Defendants said that relaying that information could endanger deputies and requested to file briefings to argue that point.
“There are a lot of variables during a traffic stop, we want to protect our deputies from sensory overload. They don’t want to spend a whole lot of time on the radio. They’re worried [about] other things at that time,” said Thomas Liddy, a defense attorney for Arpaio at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
There were also discrepancies as to how the sheriff’s office will keep track of the ethnicity of someone they pull over.
Defendants argue they should have two choices “Hispanic or not Hispanic” while plaintiffs wanted deputies to use their judgment to document ethnicity without asking questions.
The plaintiffs want to ensure there is a protocol for the public to file complaints of racial profiling and for accusations of misconduct to be properly investigated by the agency. Defendants argued those processes were already in place.
Arpaio’s attorneys are preparing an appeal to the lawsuit. But the sheriff started to implement some changes to his immigration enforcement apparatus since May. He shut down a hotline where people could call to report someone they suspected was in the country illegally.
Before the ruling, he also stopped conducting his patrols, which led to claims by some Latino motorists that they were racially profiled and pulled over for a minor infractions in order to inquire about their immigration status.
Arpaio’s agency still continues to enforce state laws aimed at fighting illegal immigration like an employment sanction law that has resulted in the arrest of hundreds of undocumented immigrants accused of working with false documents.
Those types of operations are beyond the scope of the civil rights lawsuit brought by ACLU and MALDEF, but part of a parallel lawsuit by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that is still pending.
“It’s been a long road, a long process but I think is worth it,” said Magos. “I don’t think he [Arpaio] will be violating as many rights.”
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