But amidst a long line of finger-pointing, Arpaio has been accused by the U.S. Justice Department of bullying local Latinos under the "guise" of immigration enforcement, charging the sheriff and his agency with the abuse of civil rights.
The case was brought against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Agency by a handful of Latinos, charging that illegal vehicle stops were being made, based on racial discrimination. National Public Radio
reported that, "A handful of Latinos who filed the lawsuit have alleged that Arpaio's officers based some traffic stops on the race of Hispanics in vehicles, had no probable cause to pull them over and made the stops so they could inquire about their immigration status."
Since January 2008, the Sheriff's Agency has made over 20 "sweep" patrols in heavily populated Latino areas, seeking traffic violators and other offenders. Approximately 57% of the arrests consisted of illegal immigrants, with over 1,500 arrests made. There have been several acknowledgments made from Sheriff Joe and his Agency admitting that official records of the traffic stops made during these sweeps were shredded, along with deleted emails regarding the sweep patrols.
However, it has been discovered that the county had backed-up some sweep-related emails made by Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his Agency "as part of a routine document-preservation step" in another lawsuit, totally unrelated to this one. Applauded by many, criticized by others, punishments were issued Friday by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Agency for its "acknowledged destruction of records in the case."
LA Times has published an article, "He's considered Sheriff Bully
," charging that many legal Latinos were forced to avoid certain areas of town because of the patrol sweeps, "wary of being stopped for something as minor as jaywalking and asked for immigration papers."
The newspaper article went on record by saying, "The deputy followed Nido, a U.S. citizen, to his home in Tempe. When Nido got out of his car, he said, the deputy ran him over." Without using names of the individuals who have been harassed, this type of incident caused that U.S. Justice to request a federal judge for changes to be made in the Sheriff's Agency with Homeland Security stripping all the county jail officers of any authority that would detain people on immigration charges. Homeland Security announced that before removing Arpaio and his agency of their immigration authority, they had put in place a contingency plan that would "dedicate 50 immigration officers to enforce immigration laws at the jail."
Once Arpaio and his detention officers were stripped of their authority, 92 of them turned in their Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) credentials with Sheriff Joe while making a big show of it for the media, citing the federal actions as part of a political witch hunt, said USA Today
. Meanwhile, the LA Times article reported Sheriff Joe Arpaio as saying, "We are proud of the work we have done to fight illegal immigration," he said at a recent news conference.
They had reason to be proud. Prior to this, since 2007 the Sheriff's Agency has had 475,000 inmates rounded up and placed in custody at one time or another, placing about 44,000 inmates on immigration detainers which prevented them from leaving jail until federal officers arrived to review their files. Their daily booking is 300 arrests a day, with immigration-related detainers on about 15 inmates each day.
Since his election in 1992, Sheriff Joe used his "in-your-face" style of law enforcement that has endeared him to the GOP candidates, according to CNN
. His inmates are forced to wear pink underwear and eat green/bluish discolored meat that is on the edge of being bad. Troublemakers are given bread and water alone. They all sleep outside in hot tents and work in chain gangs. When GOP presidential hopeful Cain brought up the idea of electrifying the border fence, it was considered an okay deal with Arpaio. He did not think it was a problem.
Latinos are not the only ones who are criticizing the Sheriff's agency for harassment and discrimination, with the LA Times able to identify victims by matching incidents in lawsuit reports and complaints,
...Many people said Arpaio inspired paranoia, even among Phoenix's elite. Among those hassled and indicted were critics — a group that included judges, lawyers and Maricopa County supervisors.
One critic, Republican Supervisor Don Stapley, was arrested — twice. None of the charges, which involved Stapley's fundraising and financial disclosure forms, stuck. Democratic Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox was indicted on a host of similar white-collar charges. All were dismissed.
Members of a citizens group that opposed Arpaio were arrested at a county supervisors meeting in 2008 for applauding and shouting. They were charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing, but none was convicted, the Justice Department report said.
In 2010, deputies arrested activist Salvador Reza twice during protests against SB 1070, Arizona's tough immigration law. One time, Reza said he had been watching demonstrators from across the street. "I thought, if they can do this to me, they can do this to anybody," said Reza, who said he was barred by deputies from speaking to an attorney both times he was jailed.
More and more, critics are requesting a recall of Sheriff Joe from office, even though LA Times says that "In recent months, Arpaio has publicly mulled running for U.S. Senate." And he may get in. Since the sheriff and his agency were stripped of their authority, his political adviser Chad Willems announced that his fans are more supportive than ever.
This is surprising, as his agency has been accused of misspending $100 million in taxpayer money and is facing a federal investigation into abuse of power and allegations of racial profiling. To top this off, before U.S. District Judge Murray Snow could sentence the agency on Friday for wide-ranging civil rights violations, one of the Latino inmates was pronounced dead, " Ernest Atencio had no brain activity and had marks from a stun gun used on his body," said Atencio's attorney to LA Times
“At this stage, we all have to give the MCSO the benefit of the doubt, but based on prior experience with these people, I have plenty of doubt,” Manning said, adding that the Sheriff’s Department needs to release surveillance video that was captured during the scuffle.