Sheriff Joe’s Culture of Bias
Today the Department of Justice released its findings from a three-year probe of controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio. Their conclusion: Arpaio “promoted a culture of bias” against Latinos the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
That culture of bias went beyond simply softly focusing resources on pursuing Latinos. Racial profiling became official policy. Sheriff Jo communicated to officers that “biased policing would not only be tolerated, but encouraged” and that amounted to a “pattern and practice of unconstitutional policing.”
Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, the head of DOJ’s Civil Rights Division told reporters in a conference call on Thursday morning the department’s findings were unique because they reflect just how entrenched the Arpaio mindset is in the office.
The 22-page report is made up of interviews with over 400 individuals, including Sheriff Joe himself, reviews of tens of thousands of pages of evidence, tours of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office jails and the work of four leading police practice experts.
Among the most disturbing findings were incidents where Sheriff Joe would receive a racially-charged constituent letter and make notes on it indicating support of that belief. Investigation officers found that MCSO detention officers frequently called Latinos “wetbacks,” and “stupid Mexicans” (there were other, more obscene and offensive names used as well).
Perez said that he is hopeful that despite Arpaio’s refusal to cooperate with much of the investigation the civil matter can be settled without litigation. Arpaio still faces the possibility of related criminal charges and is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona.
Photo from gageskidmore via flickr.