The infamous “Sheriff Joe,” also known as Joe Arpaio, who is the sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona, is once again the subject of controversy as he’s in quite a bit of hot water. Arpaio has developed a reputation as a particularly tough sheriff, but it appears some of his tactics have created bias against Latinos. The U.S. Justice Department has launched an investigation against Arpaio for allegedly engaging in a “pattern and practice of violating the Constitution.” Specifically, the investigation seeks to prove that the Sheriff’s office has made unlawful stops, arrests and biased jail practices against Latinos.
The basic charge is that a culture of bias was promoted by the sheriff so that deputies treated local Latinos differently than the rest of the population. It was also found that officers a part of the department often made disparaging remarks about Latinos, such as “wetbacks” and “stupid Mexicans.” TPM reports that the Department of Justice interviewed over 400 individuals, toured jails, and reviewed thousands of pages of evidence. The sheriff also apparently didn’t hide from praising racially-charged letters he received from constituents. The political site reports:
“Many of the letters, said DOJ, ‘contain no meaningful descriptions of criminal activity — just crude, ethnically derogatory language about Latinos.’ In one instance, Arpaio dubbed a letter asking him to ‘round-up’ of people with ‘dark skin’ on a corner in Phoenix as ‘intelligence’ and asked a member of his command staff to have ‘someone handle this.’”
The sheriff will be sued if he doesn’t take steps to change his department’s practices. Arpaio has called the investigation politically-motivated and his attorney deemed the report a “witch hunt.” The LA Weekly questions whether LA County Sheriff Lee Baca will face similar criticism over deportation stats. See here.
The Department of Justice’s report can be read here: