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Sheriff Arpaio Violates Latinos' Rights, Justice Department Says

Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Ross D. Franklin
Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The U.S. Justice Department says Maricopa County (Ariz.) Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has become a national figure thanks to his tough treatment of inmates and his tough talk on immigration, engages in "a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law," NPR's Carrie Johnson reports.

In a report issued this hour (posted below), "federal authorities cite a 'wall of distrust' between Arpaio and members of the Latino community," Carrie says. And Justice "says it found Latino motorists are four to nine times more likely to be stopped by sheriff's deputies than non-Latinos, often without any legal cause." There is also reason to be concerned about the "use of excessive force" by Arpaio's department, Justice says.

The federal agency "also says Arpaio retaliates against people who complain about his policies, including local government officials, and that his focus on Latino residents in Arizona may have distracted Arpaio from paying attention to other law enforcement problems, including rape and sexual assault in the community," Carrie tells us.

Arpaio has been under fire from some state lawmakers for allegedly botching a series of sex-crime cases, as Eyder reported last week.

According to Carrie, Justice Department civil rights chief Tom Perez says he wants to negotiate with the sheriff, but he won't hesitate to sue if necessary.

Or, as The Arizona Republic puts it, Justice "issued an ultimatum: come to a voluntary court-enforceable agreement to stop the unconstitutional practices, or face a lawsuit under provisions of federal Civil Rights Act."

It adds that:

"The Sheriff's Office has until Jan. 4 to decide whether to voluntarily cooperate with federal officials. If so, the Justice Department will work with Sheriff Joe Arpaio to correct violations in the next 60 days. If the sheriff declines to cooperate or fails to reach agreement, the Justice Department said it would file a civil action to force compliance with federal law."

Justice has been investigating Arpaio's office for more than three years. According to the Republic, "Arpaio and his administrators have consistently denied that the office's ongoing immigration-enforcement measures target Latino residents. Throughout the investigation, Arpaio continued his immigration enforcement tactics."

The Justice report is below (just click on the title to make it pop up in a larger box; our apologies if you're on a device that doesn't show it properly).

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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