Puma Press

Victims of racial profiling win reforms in Sheriff's Office

Sheriff Arpaio
Maricopa Co. Sheriff Joe Arpaio poses in his office in this AP Photo from 2008.

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been ordered to make significant policy changes after a judge found that his operations violated citizens’ rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments.

On Oct. 2nd, 2013, United States District Judge G. Murray Snow signed the judgment order outlining the remedies that will take place within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. The remedies include the following:

• an independent monitor to oversee the sheriff’s operations,

• new training for MCSO officers,

• audio and video recording of all traffic stops,

• a specific unit designated to implement the court order,

• community outreach programs including a community liaison officer and community advisory board,

• and many other changes in policies and procedures to ensure bias-free law enforcement.

Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres and others filed a class action lawsuit against Arpaio in 2007, alleging that Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office engaged in racial profiling and other discriminatory practices when conducting sweeps and traffic stops.

On May 24th, 2013, Judge Snow concluded that Arpaio and the MCSO had violated Melendres and others’ rights, through policies that included “Using race or Latino ancestry as a factor in determining to stop any vehicle in Maricopa County with a Latino occupant.”

In a response from Arpaio published May 29th 2013 on the Sheriff’s Youtube account, “RealSheriffJoe,” Arpaio said, “We will appeal this ruling” but he intends to follow the orders of the court.

At the June 14th hearing, the court discussed remedies to fix Arpaio’s unconstitutional enforcement of law. The remedies included a monitor for oversight, an idea that Arpaio rejected.

According to Arpaio’s attorney, Tom Liddy, in a statement made June 14th 2013 at the Sandra Day O’Connor District Court, “Were going to work … to ensure that we have an agreement By August 30th in place. Until then, the Court order as it stands will be respected and all law enforcement operations will be carried out.”

After the June 14th hearing County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said, “I think we’re on the way to resolution. The remedies that the judge talked about, particularly recording, which are very necessary to justify … and verify that racial profiling is no longer occurring were tremendous.”

At the hearing on August 30th 2013, the Court discussed both the terms of the agreement that could be agreed upon, as well as the terms that were disputed.

In the Oct. 2nd order, Judge Snow ordered that the Court would “retain jurisdiction over this case for the purposes of implementing this order.” The order is an appealable final judgment and the Court’s previous injunctions will remain permanent unless they are changed by the Court or by appeal.

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