Maricopa County Sheriff Violates Constitution, U.S. Says
By Edvard Pettersson - May 10, 2012 12:01 AM ET
Arizona’s Maricopa County and its sheriff, Joseph Arpaio, were told by the U.S. Justice Department that they will face a lawsuit for violating the Constitution after refusing to negotiate a consent agreement.
“Though we provided the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office with a draft agreement and were prepared to negotiate it, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office made the decision to cancel negotiations,” Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said yesterday in letters sent to Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney William Montgomery in Phoenix.
The Justice Department said in December that the sheriff’s office discriminated against Latinos through a practice of unlawful stops, arrests and biased jail practices.
The sheriff’s office engaged in a “pattern and practice of violating the Constitution” and federal law, Perez, who heads the civil rights division, said in December.
The investigation also revealed “serious concerns” that Arpaio didn’t investigate crimes adequately or provide police protection to the Latino community, Perez said at the time.
“MCSO is broken in a number of critical respects,” Perez said in December, referring to the sheriff’s office. “The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO’s culture and are compounded by MCSO’s penchant for retaliation against individuals who speak out.”
Arpaio has earned the title of “America’s toughest sheriff,” according to his office’s website. His department covers the state’s biggest county by population, with 3.8 million residents. His methods — which have included “crime suppression” sweeps in predominantly Latino areas in and around Phoenix — have made him a hero to groups seeking a crack down on illegal entrants to the U.S. and a target of advocates for immigrants’ rights.
Phoenix attorney Joseph Popolizio, who represents the sheriff’s office, didn’t immediately return a call yesterday seeking comment on the Justice Department’s letters.
Xochitl Hinojosa, a Justice Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on the letters.
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