In a December 15, 2011 letter to Bill Montgomery, County Attorney for Maricopa County (Phoenix), AZ, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) presented a dramatic account of Constitutional and Civil Rights violations discovered during its three-year investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO).
Based upon its extensive investigation, DOJ found reasonable cause to believe MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing, that its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff engage in racial profiling of Latinos, that they unlawfully stop, detain, and arrest Latino, and that they unlawfully retaliate against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO's policies or practices. All these actions are in violation of the Federal Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. DOJ also found MCSO operates its jails in a manner that discriminates against its limited English proficient ("LEP") Latino inmates and that MCSO deputies, detention officers, supervisory staff, and command staff routinely punish Latino LEP inmates for failing to understand English commands and deny them critical services provided to other inmates, all in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The investigation found evidence of MCSO deputies using excessive force against Latinos. It found MCSO has implemented its immigration enforcement program in a way that has created a "wall of distrust" between MCSO officers and Maricopa County's Latino residents-a wall of distrust that has significantly compromised MCSO's ability to provide police protection to Maricopa County's Latino residents, including MCSO’s failure to investigate a large number of sex crimes. 432 cases of sexual assault and child molestation were not properly investigated over a three-year period ending in 2007.
Among the report’s findings: Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers. “Immigration-related” crime suppression activities were initiated not based upon criminal activity, but because individuals had "dark skin" or were speaking Spanish. MCSO retaliation against those who criticize its practices, subjecting its critics to retaliatory detentions and arrests without cause, unfounded civil lawsuits, and other baseless complaints. A pattern or practice of unlawful seizures, including unjustified stops, detentions, and arrests, of Latinos in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Arrests and raids against lawful U.S. residents simply because they are Latinos. Use of unverified tips and/or constituent complaints “that are infected with bias against Latino persons, but contain no credible information concerning criminal activity or immigration violations,” in selecting sites for immigration enforcement operations. “An ingrained culture that encourages and tolerates the discriminatory treatment of Latino persons and an agency that lacks the requisite policies and practices to ensure effective and constitutional law enforcement.”
Despite the severity and the pattern and practice of these ongoing violations by MCSO, the DOJ has not initiated legal action against Sheriff Arpaio or MCSO. Instead, the DOJ will seek “voluntary compliance” under a yet to be negotiated court-enforceable agreement incorporating the DOJ’s suggested remedial measures.
The 22-page December 15, 2011 report gives much more detail, including specific examples of MCSO violations and wrongdoing. This report is a public document and is posted on the DOJ Civil Rights Division website.