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DOJ Lawsuit Against Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio Reveals Broad Range of Misconduct

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Perhaps one of the most notable things about the lawsuit the Department of Justice filed against Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week is its breadth.  Arpaio is being charged with quite a range of offenses, from mistreating Latino prisoners to mass racial profiling to intimidation of political opponents to violent misconduct.  The Associated Press today highlights some of the specific allegations:

— In one instance, a sheriff’s deputy stopped a five-months pregnant Latina woman, a U.S. citizen, as she pulled into her driveway and ordered that she sit on the hood of her car, according to the lawsuit. When she refused, the officer grabbed her arms, pulled them behind her back and slammed her stomach-first into the car three times before dragging her to the patrol car and shoving her into the back seat, according to the lawsuit. The woman had failed to provide the deputy with proof of insurance, a citation that was resolved when she showed a local court that she was insured, the suit says.

— During raid of a suspected drop house for illegal immigrants, sheriff’s officers searched a home next door without a warrant and with no evidence of criminal activity, handcuffed a Latino man and his 12-year-old son with zip ties and forced them to sit on the sidewalk for more than an hour next to 10 people seized from the drop house, according to the lawsuit. The man is a legal permanent resident of the U.S. and his son is a citizen, the suit says.

— During one traffic stop, sheriff’s officers are accused of stopping and detaining a Latino driver and Latino passengers for a human smuggling investigation because they “appeared to be laying or leaning on top of each other” and looked disheveled and dirty, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit said pictures taken at the scene show neatly dressed passengers sitting comfortably in the vehicle.

— In another traffic stop, deputies stopped a car with four Latino men because it “was a little low,” which the lawsuit says is not a criminal or traffic violation. The deputies ordered the men out of the car, handcuffed them with zip ties and made them sit on a curb for an hour before releasing all of them, the lawsuit says.

— In another instance during an immigration sweep, two deputies followed a Latina woman, a U.S. citizen, for a quarter-mile to her home for a non-functioning license plate light but did not turn on their police lights, according to the lawsuit. When the woman tried to go inside her home, the officers tackled her to the ground, kneed her in the back, handcuffed her and took her to a sheriff’s substation for “disorderly conduct,” the lawsuit says. She was later allowed to return home and her citation was later dismissed.

— In jail, female inmates have been denied basic sanitary items during menstruation, with some being forced to remain with soiled pants or sheets because of a language barrier, according to the lawsuit.

View more about the worst of Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio at our fact sheet here.