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Feds: Ariz. Sheriff Arpaio Violated Civil Rights, Is Biased Against Latinos

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio in his office in Phoenix, AZ.

CREDIT: AP / Ross D. Franklin

An outspoken anti-immigrant county sheriff in Arizona has committed a score of human rights violations and fueled a department-wide bias against Latino residents, federal investigators found.

The Department of Justice released a report [PDF] on Thursday that confirms a slew of very serious concerns over widespread discriminatory policing practices led by the Maricopa Sheriff’s County Office. One leading expert involved in the Justice Department’s case cited some of the findings as being some of the most “egregious racial profiling [ever] seen,” particularly against Latino residents, regardless of their immigrations status.

Embattled Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has been accused of such practices for several years, resisted complying with the Division of Civil Rights, refusing them access to key documents and pertinent personnel when he was made aware of the investigation in 2009, one year after the department’s initial inquiry began. Eventually, the federal government filed suit against the county under Title VI in September 2010, finally prompting cooperation on part of the Sheriff’s Office.

The results of the investigation are staggering. According to a summary of the findings:

The report is being released only days after the Supreme Court announced that it would review the case regarding Arizona’s SB 1070, the first law in a wave of state efforts to override the federal government’s authority on immigration issues though draconian “papers please” legislation. Some of the findings in the federal report mirror attitudes toward immigrants, and Latinos in particular, embodied in this type of legislation.

The full report reveals what many suspected for a long time—a number of the operations led by the Sheriff’s Office point to discriminatory policing and detention practices that severely discriminate against Latinos, regardless of their immigration status. Additionally, the report calls for separate investigations on other highly problematic concerns uncovered in this case, including problems resulting from a reduction of policing services in Latino communities, excessive force used against Latinos, and sex crimes based on national origin bias.

Eduardo Garcia is advocacy manager at Campus Progress. Follow him @itseddie.

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