Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio is expected to take the stand today, when a civil trial probing into his department’s chronic abuse of racial profiling resumes.
The no-jury, single-judge trial began last week in Arizona, with plaintiffs arguing that Arpaio and his department regularly profile and detain Hispanics without probable cause, often only so that they can question people about their immigration status. Sheriff Arpaio maintains that his department only stops people it thinks is likely to have committed crimes, with deputies only later finding out the undocumented status of those arrested. The plaintiffs are not seeking money or redress, only a declaration that the Sheriff’s office does racially profile Latinos and a court order forcing them to change their policies.
Among the people taking the stand last week were:
- Ralph Taylor, a Temple University professor who did a statistical analysis showing that Hispanics were 34-40% more likely to be checked for immigration status during saturation patrols than non-Hispanics were. Taylor also found that Hispanics who had been pulled over tended to be stopped for 2.6 minutes (22%) longer than non-Hispanics.
- David Vasquez, an IT specialist from Mesa, AZ, testifying about an instance when he was pulled over for a crack in his windshield that was not hampering his visibility. Vasquez questions whether the officer who detained him could have even seen the crack from where he was parked.
- David Rodriguez, who was stopped in December 2007 and ticketed for driving on a closed road, even though others driving on the same road only received warnings.
- MSCO Deputy Louis DiPietro, who in 2007 pulled over a Caucasian man who was driving two day laborers he said he had picked up for work. DiPietro then called investigators to come and pick up the day laborers, an incident the plaintiffs are using as evidence that deputies would equate day laborers with undocumented immigrants.
The trial is expected to continue this week and end mid-next week. Commentators are calling the trial a prelude to a separate Department of Justice trial against Arpaio, which further delves into questions of neglected sex-crimes investigations, police retaliation against critics, and punishment of Latino inmates for speaking Spanish. The date of that trial has not yet been set.