tags: Press Releases

Obama Administration to Sheriff Joe Arpaio: The Constitution Does Matter

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Today, the United States Department of Justice took a strong and welcome step towards ending Maricopa County (AZ) Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s reign of terror. 

In its three year investigation of the Sheriff’s policing practices, DOJ found evidence of what we’ve long known.  Arpaio has “engage[d] in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing”  and “a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations.”  The United States Department of Homeland Security also decided to revoke its remaining 287(g) agreement with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and restrict other mechanisms of coordination.

Following is a statement from Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice Education Fund:

“For years Arpaio, a modern-day Bull Connor, has targeted Latinos by the color of the skin and the language that they speak, and bragged about it.  He has neglected serious crimes in favor of enforcing civil immigration laws, and made it impossible for immigrant crime victims to trust the police.  Anyone who dared challenge his ugly reign of terror was subject to harassment and retaliation.

“Arpaio’s tactics have had a long reach, as vigilante law enforcement officers in other states have seen him operate with impunity and adopted his approach.  Today’s announcement from the U.S. Department of Justice is a critical step toward ending racial profiling and discrimination in law enforcement in Maricopa County, Arizona.

“Today, in Maricopa County, DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, under the direction of Tom Perez, let Arpaio and his followers know that the Constitution and the rule of law do matter.  America’s Voice Education Fund thanks the DOJ and responsible police leaders who have spoken out against Arpaio’s tactics for years.  He must be held accountable for undermining public trust and public safety.”

For more on the reign of Sheriff Joe Arpaio see:

The Best/Worst of Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio

As the Department of Justice’s investigation has shown, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s discriminatory practices and abuses of power have made him a Bull Connor for the 21st century. Below are some of the highlights–or rather, lowlights–of Arpaio’s career: terrorizing immigrants and detainees such as the mother he forced to give birth in shackles; abusing power and embracing corruption, including misusing $100 million in taxpayer money to fund his own pet projects; and ignoring serious crime in his county, including letting over 400 sex crimes cases go uninvestigated.

April 2008: Over 40,000 Un-Served Felony Warrants
In an interview with Arpaio, an Arizona Republic reporter pointed out that the county had over 40,000 unserved felony warrants, and quoted Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon saying that Arpaio had created “a sanctuary county” for felons.

June 2008:2,700 Lawsuits Filed Against Arpaio
Between 2004 and 2007, 2,700 lawsuits were filed against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in federal and county courts – 50 times the number of suits filed in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Houston combined.

October 2008: Arpaio Stages Phony Murder Plot Against Himself, Accused Released for Wrongful Imprisonment, County Pays Over $1 Million to Settle
In 2004 a man was released from prison after being wrongly accused of plotting to kill Arpaio. Evidence suggested that Arpaio’s office staged the plot and the County agreed to pay over $1 million to settle the case. The County’s insurance policy paid an additional un-released amount.

October 2008: Judge Says Conditions in Arpaio’s Jails “Violate the Constitution”
A federal judge ruled in October 2008 that Sheriff Arpaio and county health officials “violated the Constitution by depriving jail inmates of adequate medical screening and care, feeding them unhealthy food and housing them in unsanitary conditions.”

May 2009: Arpaio Stalks Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard
On the day the Arizona Republic ran an article about an FBI investigation of Arpaio’s office that quoted Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, Arpaio’s deputies went to Goddard’s home. They sat in a squad car watching the house for ninety minutes before leaving.

November 2009: Arpaio Forces Mother to Give Birth while Handcuffed to Bed
In a story reported by Telemundo in 2009, Sheriff Arpaio forced Alma Minerva Chacon to give birth while she was in shackles. Following the birth, Chacon was told that unless someone came to pick up the newborn in 72 hours, her child would be turned over to state custody.

December 2009: Arpaio Under FBI Investigation for Using his Power to Intimidate Political Opponents
After Arpaio and a political ally attempted to indict local officials they saw as enemies, the FBI launched an investigation into whether Arpaio was abusing his position to target his opponents. As local TV station KPHO reported: “The merit of the charges” Arpaio filed against opponents “are lost on a public who is becoming increasingly cynical of the persecution of political foes in Maricopa County even for a local folk hero like Arpaio.”

October 2010: Violent Crime Rates Rise Under Arpaio, Fall in Rest of Arizona
From 2002 to 2009, the rate of violent crime across the state of Arizona fell by 12%, and cities within Maricopa County saw significant decreases as well. Areas policed by Arpaio’s sheriff’s office, however, increased by 58% during this time. Meanwhile, 911 response times in Maricopa County increased significantly.

March 2011: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Blames School and Parents of Hispanic Children For Cancelled Event
After Sheriff Joe Arpaio was uninvited from reading to sixth-graders at an elementary school in Phoenix, he blasted out a nasty press release blaming “parents of Hispanic students,” as well as the school’s administration.

April 2011: Arpaio Suspected of Misspending $100M in Taxpayer Funds, Refuses to Turn Over Records
An investigation into the Maricopa County sheriff’s office discovered that Arpaio, the Bull Connor reincarnate of immigration enforcement, inappropriately spent $99.5 million from two jail funds over the last eight years to pay for other law enforcement operations—including immigration patrols.  When the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors met to discuss the investigation, Arpaio didn’t attend–he was busy leading an immigration raid on a dry cleaners in Mesa.

May 2011: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Is Too Busy Chasing Immigrants to Investigate 400 Sex Crime Cases
ABC 12 News in Arizona reported that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) failed to adequately investigate more than 400 sex-crime cases over a two-year period, many of which involved children from 2 to 16 years old.   Many of these victims were the children of undocumented immigrants.  Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Arpaio was so uninterested in investigating cases when immigrants were the victims instead of the perpetrators: as Arpaio once told Larry King, his deputies arrest “very few” non-Hispanics.

July 2011: Sheriff Joe Arpaio Settles $200k in Racial Profiling Case
Arpaio paid $200,000 in a settlement to Julian and Julio Mora, a father and son who his agents zip-tied and held for three hours during a 2009 raid of the Phoenix landscaping firm Handyman Maintenance Inc., where the father worked.

September 2011: Sheriff Arpaio Comes Out as Birther, Assigned “Cold Case Posse” to Obama Birth Certificate Case
As World Net Daily reported: “Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told WND [World Net Daily] he has assigned a five-member ‘Cold Case Posse’ to investigate the authenticity of Barack Obama’s birth certificate.”

September 2011: Arpaio’s Department Sued for Killing Puppy in Raid Conducted for Steven Seagal’s Reality Show
During filming of his reality show Steven Seagal: Lawman, actor Steven Seagal  went with Arpaio’s deputies to film an anti-animal cruelty raid on a cockfighting facility. Ironically, the raid resulted in the deaths of one dog and over 100 roosters, and the owner sued the sheriff’s office and Seagal.

America’s Voice Education Fund– Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.