The Department of Justice is Very Unhappy With Joe Arpaio


Nearly 20 years since he was first elected sheriff, awful person Joe Arpaio is in trouble and his law enforcement practices will have to change. Not because democracy works and people stopped electing him, but because a three-year investigation by the Department of Justice's civil rights division has confirmed what a lot of people already suspected about Arpaio— not only is he super into chain gangs and humiliating prisoners by making them wear pink uniforms, but his heavy-handed law enforcement tactics target Latinos in a manner which is both a violation of their civil rights and the Constitution.

It's so bad that the Department of Homeland Security announced they will no longer coordinate with Maricopa County on immigration enforcement.

Arpaio has not been having the best of times recently. The man has cost Arizona's Maricopa County $5 million in lawsuit settlements (with another $177 million filed by various and sundry), has used $99.5 million in public funds to pay his staff instead of housing prisoners, and Reason readers might recall that he completed some kind of media whore trifecta by combining Steven Seagal, a tank, and television cameras in order to arrest a man for alleged cock-fighting, but that led to yet another lawsuit. 

All this, yet the man has Republican primary candidates working for his endorsement as if it's a great honor — Michele Bachmann slobbered out the word "hero" during her attempts to get Arpaio's support, but he somewhat surprisingly threw that to Rick Perry, who is defending Arpaio even now.

But it turns out not only is Arpaio good at violating the rights of people who at best were actually in the country illegally, he is also really awful at following up on serious criminal complaints. While Sheriff Joe and his deputies were ignoring 400 sexual abuse reports between 2005 and 2007, many of which involved the Hispanic community, they were busy with their trademark heavy-handed immigration raids. Fifteen hundred people have been arrested or detained in these sweeping raids since 2008, but neither Arpaio nor his drones have the gift of identifying by sight which Hispanic-looking people are legally in the United States and which are not. According to his own office, just 57 percent of people caught or detained were are illegal immigrants. 

According to an excellent, in-depth report from the the Associated Press, the investigation also found:

Latino inmates with limited English skills were punished for failing to understand commands in English by being put in solitary confinement for up to 23 hours a day or keeping prisoners locked down in their jail pods for as long as 72 hours without a trip to the canteen area or making nonlegal phone calls….

Detention officers refused to accept forms requesting basic daily services and reporting mistreatment when the documents were completed in Spanish and pressured Latinos with limited English skills to sign forms that implicate their legal rights without language assistance.

The agency pressures Latinos with limited English skills to sign forms by yelling at them and keeping them in uncomfortably cold cells for long periods of time.


The civil rights report said Latinos are four to nine times more likely to be stopped in traffic stops in Maricopa County than non-Latinos and that the agency's immigration policies treat Latinos as if they are all in the country illegally. Deputies on the immigrant-smuggling squad stop and arrest Latino drivers without good cause, the investigation found.

A review done as part of the investigation found that 20 percent of traffic reports handled by Arpaio's immigrant-smuggling squad from March 2006 to March 2009 were stops — almost all involving Latino drivers — that were done without reasonable suspicion. The squad's stops rarely led to smuggling arrests.

The harsh conclusions reached by the DOJ do not mean any kind of litigation is forthcoming, only that it's being seriously threatened. Arpaio has 60 days to begin to get his house in order, meanwhile the investigation continues and schadenfreude should reign throughout the land.

Reason on Joe Arpaio. 

(Hat tip to sloopyinca for that AP link. Image credit to Gage Skidmore/Wikipedia commons.)