Napolitano cuts Arpaio from Secure Communities Program
PHOENIX & SANTA FE, NM (By US Today) December 15, 2011 ― The Civil Rights Division of U.S. Justice Department today said a three-year investigation finds Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office has engaged in a "culture of bias" involving racial profiling and a widespread pattern of discrimination of Hispanics.
In the wake of the Justice Department findings, the Department of Homeland Security has cut off Maricopa County from access to the Secure Communities program and ended an agreement through which the state is allowed to detain individuals in the country illegally after their initial arrest. Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a statement that DHS is "troubled" by the Justice Department report. "Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust," the statement says. "DHS will not be a party to such practices."
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is troubled by the Department of Justice's (DOJ) findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office (MCSO). Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust. DHS will not be a party to such practices.
Accordingly, and effective immediately, DHS is terminating MCSO's 287(g) jail model agreement and is restricting the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office access to the Secure Communities program.
DHS will utilize federal resources for the purpose of identifying and detaining those individuals who meet U.S. Immigration Customs Enforcement's (ICE) immigration enforcement priorities. The Department will continue to enforce federal immigration laws in Maricopa County in smart, effective ways that focus our resources on criminal aliens, recent border crossers, repeat and egregious immigration law violators and employers who knowingly hire illegal labor.
The investigation found a number of instances in which "crime suppression activities" were initiated on complaints that "described no criminal activity, but rather referred, for instance, to individuals with 'dark skin' congregating in one area, or the individuals speaking Spanish at a local business."
"The use of these types of bias-infected indicators as a basis for conducting enforcement activity contributes to the high number of stops and detentions lacking in legal justification," Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez said in his letter.
Among the alleged civil rights violations: Hispanics were routinely targeted for traffic stops without reasonable cause, and subsequently charged with immigration-related crimes. Legal residents were sometimes treated as if they were undocumented immigrants and even jailed.
Hispanic inmates with poor or no English proficiency were frequently punished for not understanding English, were required to fill out forms in a language they did not understand or were denied critical services available to English-speaking inmates.
Community activists and critics who spoke out against the Sheriff's Office's treatment of Hispanics were themselves targeted for retaliation.
The Justice Department also found the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office did not adequately train or supervise its personnel to avoid civil rights violations and, in fact, permitted the specialized units to engage in unconstitutional behavior.
The department found three additional areas of concern that require further review. Investigators allege some sheriff's deputies use excessive force against Hispanics; the agency's immigration enforcement programs have caused distrust within the Hispanic community; and that certain types of criminal cases have been improperly investigated.
In his letter, Perez said the department would "prefer to resolve this matter without resort to further litigation, although we will not hesitate to file suit, if necessary."
According to Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez's letter to Maricopa County attorney Bill Montgomery, investigators found the alleged pattern and practice of discriminating against Hispanics flows from the top echelons of the sheriff's office and has compromised its ability to provide quality law enforcement to county residents.
Investigators believe the sheriff's office followed a pattern or practice of unconstitutional treatment of Hispanics both inside the jails and in traffic stops, especially by the sheriff's human smuggling and work-site enforcement units.
The Justice Department today accused the office of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio of racial profiling in traffic stops and immigration operations and discriminating against Spanish speakers in the county jails.
The Justice Department issued the Maricopa County sheriff an ultimatum -- voluntarily agree to stop the alleged unconstitutional practices or face a lawsuit under provisions of federal Civil Rights Act.
An excerpt from the report: Based upon our extensive investigation, we find reasonable cause to believe MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff's Office] engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing. Specifically, we find MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, supervisory staff, and command staff, engages in racial profiling of Hispanics; unlawfully stops, detains, and arrests Hispanics; and unlawfully retaliates against individuals who complain about or criticize MCSO's policies or practices, all in violation of Section 14141. MCSO's discriminatory police conduct additionally violates Title VI and its implementing regulations.
We also find reasonable cause to believe MCSO operates its jails in a manner that discriminates against its limited English proficient ("LEP") Hispanic inmates. Specifically, we find MCSO, through the actions of its deputies, detention officers, supervisory staff, and command staff, routinely punishes Hispanic LEP inmates for failing to understand commands given in English and denies them critical services provided to the other inmates, all in violation of Title VI and its implementing regulations.
The announcement could mark the end to a probe that has served as a backdrop as Arpaio pursued his controversial attempts at immigration enforcement through crime sweeps and worksite raids.
The sweeps have in the past led to dozens of sheriff's deputies descending on heavily Hispanic neighborhoods looking for minor infractions as a way to launch into immigration screenings.
The scope of the sweeps has broadened, however, since federal immigration officials in 2009 took away Arpaio's authority to perform street-level enforcement as part of a federal program.
Both of those immigration-enforcement tactics have generated broad public support along with claims of racial profiling.