Judge: Sheriff Arpaio’s agency engaged in racial profiling
By JJ Hensley The Republic | azcentral.com Fri May 24, 2013 10:06 PM
A federal judge’s ruling that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office engaged in racial profiling against Latinos could bring significant changes to the agency’s controversial approach to immigration enforcement.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow issued a lengthy ruling that prohibits sheriff’s deputies from using race as a factor in law-enforcement decisions, from detaining people solely for suspected immigration violations and from contacting federal immigration authorities to arrest suspected illegal immigrants who are not accused of committing state crimes.
The ruling, issued Friday afternoon — more than eight months after the final arguments were heard — brings an end to a case that started with the 2007 arrest near Cave Creek of Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, a day laborer.
Snow’s ruling also provides thorough dissection of the constitutional violations that Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s immigration-enforcement efforts imposed on Latinos in Maricopa County, and it frequently contrasts Arpaio’s own news releases and statements to media with testimony he offered during the trial.
Critics of Arpaio’s immigration enforcement efforts, many of whom have for years accused the Sheriff’s Office of discriminating against Latinos, said they felt vindicated by the ruling.
“It seems like what we have always known, that racial profiling was being done, was brought out by Judge Snow; now I think we all need to look at the remedies,” said Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, a longtime critic of the sheriff’s immigration policies.
“In my mind, people have been very abused in our communities,” she said. “We knew racial profiling was taking place and it was very hard to prove it.”
Arpaio’s attorney, Tim Casey, strongly denied that sheriff’s deputies ever engaged in racial profiling and promised to appeal the ruling.
Casey also took a broad view of the issue, drawing on recent court rulings, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Arizona’s immigration-enforcement law, to conclude that the federal government is trying to send a message to local law enforcement.
“It is very clear that when it comes to people in the country unlawfully, that federal law does not want any local law-enforcement participation,” he said.
‘Nothing has changed’
Arpaio’s boast that his office would not change its approach to immigration enforcement after the federal government stripped deputies of that authority in 2009, and his subsequent decision to train deputies based on an inaccurate understanding of immigration law, made plaintiffs’ claims relevant, Snow wrote.
Had the Sheriff’s Office ceased immigration enforcement after Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials removed the deputies “287(g)” authority to enforce federal immigration law, the plaintiff’s claims might have been moot, he wrote.
“As was made clear by the testimony of the sheriff and other members of the MCSO command staff at trial, nothing has changed,” Snow wrote.
The case began when Melendres, a Mexican tourist in the United States legally, was stopped outside a church in Cave Creek where day laborers were known to gather. Melendres, the passenger in a car driven by a White driver, claimed that deputies detained him for nine hours and that the detention was unlawful.
Eventually, the case grew to include complaints from two Hispanic siblings from Chicago who felt they were profiled by sheriff’s deputies, and from an assistant to former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon whose Hispanic husband claims he was detained and cited while nearby White motorists were treated differently.
The lawsuit did not seek monetary damages. Instead, plaintiffs asked for the kind of relief the Sheriff’s Office has resisted in the past: a declaration that spells out what deputies may or may not do when stopping potential suspects, and a court-appointed monitor to make sure the agency lives by those rules.
Snow gave each side 20 hours to present their case in a tightly controlled trial that took place in late July and early August last year in the federal courthouse in downtown Phoenix.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs took a three-pronged approach, using Arpaio’s own statements about undocumented immigrants along with racially insensitive requests from constituents for immigration enforcement to show what they called the sheriff’s callous attitude toward the rights of Latinos and his agency’s intention to discriminate.
Data showing that Latino drivers were more likely to be stopped during the sheriff’s immigration sweeps, and that those stops were likely to last longer, was designed to show the outcome of that intent. And statements from residents who claimed they were victims of profiling was intended to illustrate the impact of the sheriff’s policies.
Setting policy at the Sheriff’s Office
The ruling indicates that Snow, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush in 2007, agreed with the attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union on many of their points. He frequently cites Arpaio’s statements to the media and his office’s news releases to draw conclusions about Arpaio’s point of view at the time of the immigration sweeps and work-site raids, regardless of what the sheriff said on the witness stand.
At one point, Snow says flatly that the sheriff’s testimony was incorrect when it came to the issue of whether racially insensitive e-mails from constituents motivated some of the sheriff’s saturation patrols, in which deputies would typically flood neighborhoods with high Hispanic populations.
“The evidence demonstrates that on October 4, 2007, the MCSO conducted a small-scale saturation patrol on the corner of Ellsworth and Ocotillo, based on a complaint transmitted to the MCSO on October 2 that Hispanic day laborers congregated there,” Snow wrote.
Cecillia Wang, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, said the ruling supports the ACLU’s claim that the direction in the Sheriff’s Office comes from Arpaio, despite deputies’ attempts during the trial to distance the six-term lawmaker from day-to-day decisions of the office.
“What he says publicly either to constituents in response to their racist e-mails, or what he writes in his book, did set the tone and set policy for the Sheriff’s Office. The evidence showed that the sheriff does set policy. His response to overly racist letters led down the road to these immigration raids,” Wang said. “This is an agency where you saw a classic instance of a law-enforcement culture that led directly to a situation where all the Latino residents of the county who the sheriff swore to protect and serve were victimized by his law enforcement.”
Snow also frequently cited data presented at the trial about the ethnicity of the suspects the sheriff arrests and detains to come to the conclusion that sheriff’s deputies used race as a factor in making law-enforcement decisions. Even if race was not the only factor, as the Sheriff’s Office has contended, the practice resulted in more Latinos being arrested during the sheriff’s sweeps and Latinos being detained longer than non-Latino counterparts during traffic stops.
The practices led to violations of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, Snow wrote.
Snow used the data provided to support his skeptical view that sheriff’s deputies actually engaged in a “zero tolerance” policy requiring them to arrest anyone who violated the law during patrols.
Several deputies testified that bad drivers are so prevalent in Maricopa County it is easy to find moving violations to make traffic stops.
[Yea, and even if you aren't a bad drive they will make something up - Look he is weaving 2 nano inches every 2 miles.]
“To accept Deputy (Michael) Kike’s testimony in its entirety would mean that Deputy Kikes spent at least four days on traffic patrol in an environment where so many people commit traffic or equipment infractions it would be impossible to stop them all,” Snow wrote. “And all of that resulted in five arrests over four days, all of which just happened to be of Hispanic persons who were in the country without authorization.”
Monitoring still a sticky issue
The most immediate and visible effect of Snow’s ruling could be his injunction preventing sheriff’s deputies from contacting ICE when they have detained suspected undocumented immigrants who are not accused of violating a state law.
After deputies lost their federal-immigration authority, the Sheriff’s Office enacted a policy that authorized deputies to contact ICE’s law-enforcement agency response team whenever they encounter such immigrants.
The Sheriff’s Office has not had a formal saturation patrol in years, but the agency continues to engage in work-site raids looking for identity theft and fraud suspects. Casey, Arpaio’s attorney, said it was too early to tell what Snow’s ruling would do to those operations.
The stickier issue might come with the role of a court-appointed monitor to ensure the ruling is properly enacted: Arpaio flatly refused to consider the idea in an effort to resolve a racial-profiling complaint the U.S. Justice Department brought against the Sheriff’s Office. That case hasn’t been resolved.
[F*** a court monitor. Sheriff Joe needs to be removed from the job and placed in prison for violating our rights!!!]
Casey indicated Arpaio’s feelings have not changed.
[Arpaio is a corrupt racist cop who probably will never change]
“I don’t know how there can be a monitor on a constitutionally elected representative,” Casey said. “It will supplant the sheriff’s authority.”
[Again, don't monitor Sheriff Joe, put him in prison where he belongs!!!]
Wang declined to provide details on what the ACLU will ask for, but said some oversight would be necessary to correct problems the federal court identified.
Snow set a hearing for mid-June to determine how the Sheriff’s Office will ensure it is adhering to the court’s ruling.
“When you’ve got an agency that is so deeply infected from the top with both a culture and a policy that results in this type of unconstitutional conduct, you need to have concrete provisions to ensure we uproot the problem,” Wang said.
But future hearings have no bearing on the significance of Friday’s ruling, Wang added.
“I want people in the county to know that this is an immediate and permanent injunction,” she said. “Anyone in the county who is discriminated against can immediately go into court and seek relief.”
And if that means more litigation, and more costs to taxpayers, Wilcox, the county supervisor, said the county would have to do whatever is necessary.
[Mary "Bullet in the Butt" Rose Wilcox is also corrupt and just as bad as Sheriff Joe. She voted to steal a billion or so for that worthless Bank One Ball Park. Google Larry Naman]
“I hope the county is not having to suffer monetarily because of all this,” Wilcox said. “But whatever it takes to right it, we are going to have to bite the bullet and do what it takes.”
Judge: Arpaio's office systematically profiles Latinos
Judge: Arpaio's office systematically profiles Latinos
Posted: Friday, May 24, 2013 5:18 pm | Updated: 7:19 pm, Fri May 24, 2013.
By Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services | 4 comments
A federal judge on Friday found the department run by the self-professed "toughest sheriff in America'' was guilty of racial profiling and ordered the agency's practices permanently halted.
In a 140-page ruling, Judge Murray Snow said members of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department, under the direction of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, were detaining individuals they believed to be in this country illegally without some other reason to arrest them for violating any state laws. Snow said that continued to occur even after the Department of Homeland Security revoked the MCSO's authority to identify and detain those not in the country legally.
RELATED: "Reasonable Doubt" -- The East Valley Tribune's five-part series investigating the hidden costs of the MCSO's immigration enforcement efforts... winner of the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting
[See this URL]
The judge also said that department policy and practice allows officers to consider the race of a vehicle's occupants in determining whether they have reasonable suspicion to investigate them for violation of any state immigration laws.
"In some instances these policies result in prolonging the traffic stop beyond the time necessary to resolve the issue that initially justified the stop,'' Snow wrote. And he said that, absent some reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, holding people longer than necessary violates their constitutional rights against unreasonable search and seizure.
Snow said that entitled Hispanic individuals who sued to an injunction permanently barring the sheriff's department from using Hispanic ancestry or race to determine whether to stop a vehicle. It also prohibits deputies from detaining or arresting Latino vehicle occupants on a belief that they are in this country illegally if race is the only factor they have.
The order also bars the agency from detaining Latino occupants of vehicles stopped for traffic violations any longer than necessary to process the citation unless they have "reasonable suspicion'' that any are committing a federal or state crime.
Arpaio told Capitol Media Services he does not believe his agency engages in racial profiling.
"That's why we're going to appeal it,'' he said.
Byt Dan Pochoda, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona, said the ruling confirms the allegations that Latinos have been "terrorized'' by MCSO deputies and "forced to endure years of racial harassment and abuse.'' And Pochoda, in a prepared statement, said all that can be laid at the feet of "Arpaio's proven willingness to seek political gain at the expense of public safety and constitutional guarantees.''
Snow said that, at least on paper, the instructions to deputies were that vehicles were not to be stopped based on the race of any subject in a vehicle.
But he said evidence painted a somewhat different picture.
"While officers were prohibited from using race as the only basis to undertake a law enforcement investigation, they were allowed as a matter of policy and instruction to consider race as one factor among others in making law enforcement decisions in the context of immigration enforcement,'' the judge wrote.
Snow reached his ruling after reviewing years of crime prevention "saturation patrols'' by the department. He said these were far from neutral.
"The MCSO almost always scheduled its day labor and small-scale saturation patrols where Latino day laborers congregated,'' he said. "The same is true for a considerable number of its large-scale saturation patrols.''
And Snow said it is clear that the purpose of these patrols was to enforce immigration laws, citing the news releases issued by the agency's public relations department.
"These news releases either emphasized that the patrols' purpose was immigration enforcement, or prominently featured the number of unauthorized aliens arrested during such operations,'' Snow said. "Most of the time, the reports ignored any other arrests that took place.''
Snow also said the saturation operations were just a pretext to stop vehicles with people who may be in this country illegally.
"During saturation patrols, participating deputies conducted many stops for minor violations of the traffic code, including minor equipment violations,'' the judge said. "This departments from MCSO's traffic enforcement priorities during regular patrols.''
And Snow said that, generally speaking, deputies "had no difficulty in finding a basis to stop any vehicle they wished for a traffic infraction.''