Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s compliance with a court order not to detain Latino motorists and passengers only on the suspicion they are undocumented immigrants or to use race or Latino ancestry as a reason to stop a vehicle may be monitored by the judge who issued the order.
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow last month found that that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office violated the civil rights of Latinos in a crackdown on undocumented immigrants. The ruling came in a lawsuit on behalf of all Latinos who, since January 2007, have been stopped, detained, questioned or searched by Arpaio’s deputies. The judge also said the office must improve training and record-keeping on traffic stops.
“I have no intention of letting the sheriff be the final authority on the effectiveness of that training or to conduct that training absent oversight of an independent authority,” Snow said at a hearing today in Phoenix. “I may require that I approve the training and not just the independent monitor.”
Arpaio’s department covers Arizona’s biggest county by population, with 3.8 million residents. His methods, including saturation patrols or “crime suppression” sweeps in predominantly Latino areas in and around Phoenix, have made him a hero to groups seeking a crackdown on unauthorized entrants to the U.S. and a target of advocates for immigrants’ rights.
“We are in substantial agreement on the issues you have raised and my clients will make meaningful changes,” Tim Casey, an attorney for the office, told Snow today.
He said the saturation patrols ended more than a year ago.
“The sheriff’s office understands it needs to improve its law enforcement practices and upgrade its ability to store more information,” he told Snow.
Casey also said he believed continuing talks with the plaintiffs in the case would result in both sides’ reaching substantial agreement on remedies by August.
Stanley Young, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told Snow that talks with Arpaio’s attorneys had been constructive and asked the judge to let talks continue until August.
Snow scheduled a hearing for Aug. 30.
Arpaio testified at last year’s trial that his department doesn’t arrest people “because of the color of their skin.” While many deputies had undergone training regarding racial profiling, according to trial witnesses, Arpaio testified that he hadn’t.
The allegations in the class action before Snow are similar to those made by the U.S. Justice Department in a lawsuit it filed against Maricopa County and Arpaio.
The department accused the sheriff of “intentionally and systematically” discriminating against Latinos. Arpaio, 80, who has been elected five times and served 20 years in office, said in response to the U.S. lawsuit that President Barack Obama, a Democrat, is going after him to court Latino voters.
The Justice Department yesterday filed a statement with Snow’s court suggesting steps he could take to ensure compliance with his ruling, including appointing an independent monitor.
“The United States has engaged in preliminary conversations with plaintiffs in this case and would welcome the opportunity to participate more directly with the parties in negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement on the form of appropriate relief,” Roy Austin, a deputy assistant attorney general, said in the filing.
The case began in 2007, when Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres, who was in the U.S. legally on a tourist visa, was detained by sheriff’s deputies near a Cave Creek church where day laborers often gathered.
A driver had picked up Melendres and two other men and was driving away from the church when a deputy stopped the car for speeding. The driver, who not Latino, wasn’t cited and was allowed to leave, while the Hispanic men were held. Melendres said in the lawsuit that a nine-hour detention that followed was unlawful.
Melendres is one of the five named plaintiffs in the case. The other four are U.S. citizens.
The case is Melendres v. Arpaio, 07-02513, U.S. District Court, District of Arizona (Phoenix).
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