The US Department of Justice on Dec. 15 announced the findings of its three-year civil rights investigation of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO). The investigation concluded that there is reasonable cause to believe that MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of violating the Constitution and laws of the US in three areas. First, the DOJ found that the MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing, specifically in racial profiling of Latinos and in the unlawful stops, detains and arrests resulting therefrom. Next, the DoJ found that the MCSO unlawfully retaliates against people who criticize its policies and practices. Finally, the DoJ found reasonable cause to believe that the MCSO operates its jails in a manner that discriminates against Latino inmates that are limited-English-proficient, routinely punishing them when they fail to understand commands given in English, and denying critical services that are provided to other inmates. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez made the findings announcement, criticizing the MCSO for failing to cooperate with requests for information, which caused the investigation to to take longer than expected.
The problems identified in our letter of findings are very serious. They affect public safety, officer safety on the street and in the jail, and they implicate important constitutional protections. Effective policing and constitutional policing go hand in hand. Other departments have recognized this, and we are working collaboratively with us to address important issues… If collaboration again proves elusive, we will not hesitate to take prompt, appropriate legal action.
The investigation found discriminatory policing that was deeply rooted in the culture of the department, one that breeds a systemic disregard for basic constitutional protections, the problems of which are compounded by the MCSO’s penchant for retaliation against people who speak out against them. The DOJ is also reviewing allegations that the MCSO has failed to investigate a large number of sex crimes.
From Jurist, Dec. 16. Used with permission.