Joe Arpaio, Arizona Sheriff to Await Delayed Ruling

    August 31, 2013
    Lacy Langley

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow delayed a ruling in the racial profiling case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office Friday as both sides remain at odds over key remedies to ensure the agency adheres to constitutional requirements. Snow found in May that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office singled out Latinos and deputies unreasonably prolonged detentions, marking the first finding by a court that the agency covering Arizona’s most populous county engages in racial profiling.

In June, the case was delayed to give the two parties more time to reach and agreement, though Friday it became apparent that neither side was ready to give in. “I presume that you’re now leaving it up to me to take your outline and create an order, and that’s what I intend to do,” Snow told attorneys. He said he would issue a final order shortly after the Sept. 18th deadline for both sides to turn in any additional briefs.

The case arose after a small group of Latinos sued the sheriff’s office, claiming that their constitutional rights had been violated. They claim that they were detained by the agency simply because of their race.

There are a couple of key points they are hung up on. One requires deputies to note to dispatchers why they have stopped a vehicle before they make contact with the driver. Maricopa County Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan told the judge it would be burdensome and risky since “traffic stops are one of the most dangerous things that deputies do.”

However, Cecillia Wang, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs, stated, “It takes less than a second to say, `I’m pulling this car over because it was speeding.'”. She added that such a requirement is needed “given the record … of racial profiling of Latinos in this county.”

Another key point that neither side will give on is the appointment of a monitor to oversee the agency’s adherence to the judge’s eventual order. Arpaio claims that allowing a monitor means every policy decision would have to be cleared through the monitor and would undermine his authority.”Obviously, my client opposes the appointment of any monitor,” Tim Casey, one of Arpaio’s lawyers, told the judge.

Casey said in addition to undermining the authority of the sheriff, the agency is concerned about how much power the monitor would hold, and how exposed the monitor would be to sensitive information, including ongoing investigations and search warrants. “Basically, the concern is one of safety,” Casey said. “The more people who know, the greater the risk of being burned.”

Despite the objections, Snow indicated that a monitor would be appointed and would have significant authority.
“It will be the monitor’s obligation to determine when the MCSO is in full compliance,” the judge said.

Arpaio’s office also disagrees the plaintiffs’ proposal to create an advisory board aimed at improving the department’s relationship with the Latino community. Casey argued that the Sheriff’s Office already has a community outreach liaison, and that “the sheriff recognizes there needs to be some improvement.There’s a positive effect if my client goes to the Latino community voluntarily,” he said, adding that if it appeared forced it would be “throwing fuel on the fire.”

While the judge’s May ruling doesn’t prohibit Arpaio from enforcing the state’s immigration laws, it does limit what the sheriff can do on his patrols, some of them in heavily latino-concentrated areas. The restrictions focus on using race as a factor in deciding whether to stop a vehicle with a Latino occupant and on detaining Latino passengers only on the suspicion that they’re in the country illegally.

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Lacy Langley
Lacy is a writer from Texas. She likes spending time in the home office, homeschooling her kids, playing the didgeridoo, caring for her chickens (Thelma and Louise), Rolos, Christmas, and Labyrinth.