Justice Department: Maricopa sheriff's office discriminated against Latinos

Story highlights

  • Joseph M. Arpaio is the Maricopa County sheriff
  • Discrimination is thought to be "wide-ranging" in the office, Justice says
  • There's been retaliation against the office's critics, the Justice Department alleges
A controversial sheriff's office in Arizona "engaged in a pattern of misconduct" that included discrimination against Latinos, the Justice Department said Thursday.
The department cited a "pattern or practice of wide-ranging discrimination against Latinos and retaliatory actions against individuals who criticized" the activities of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, under Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Here is a list of the Justice Department's findings from the investigation, which began in June 2008.
A pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct is believed to have occurred in several areas:
-- Discriminatory policing practices including unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Latinos;
-- Unlawful retaliation against individuals exercising their First Amendment right to criticize MCSO's policies or practices, including but not limited to practices relating to its discriminatory treatment of Latinos; and
-- Discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited English proficiency by punishing them and denying them critical services.
The unlawful conduct stems from long-standing and entrenched systemic deficiencies.
-- A failure to implement policies guiding deputies on lawful policing practices;
-- Allowing specialized units to engage in unconstitutional practices;
-- Inadequate training;
-- Inadequate supervision;
-- An ineffective disciplinary, oversight and accountability system; and
-- A lack of sufficient external oversight and accountability.
Other allegations include:
-- Use of excessive force;
-- Police practices that have the effect of significantly compromising MCSO's ability to adequately protect Latino residents; and
-- Failure to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assaults.
"While no formal findings of pattern or practice violations have been made in connection with these issues, the investigation remains ongoing," the Justice Department statement said.
"MCSO's systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections has created a wall of distrust between the sheriff's office and large segments of the community, which dramatically compromises the ability to protect and serve the people," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "The problems are deeply rooted in MCSO's culture, and are compounded by MCSO's penchant for retaliation against individuals who speak out."
The Justice Department interviewed "more than 400 people, including 75 current and former MCSO supervisors and deputies, including Sheriff Arpaio, and 150 former and current MCSO inmates. In addition, the department reviewed thousands of pages of documents. Many of the interviews and much of this review was delayed when MCSO refused to provide required documents and access. MCSO finally provided the required access and documents after the department filed a lawsuit under Title VI in September 2010."