US Justice Department Says Arizona Sheriff Violated Civil Rights Laws

Posted December 15th, 2011 at 5:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. Justice Department says an Arizona sheriff and his deputies violated civil rights laws by engaging in racial profiling of Latinos and making unlawful arrests.

In a report released Thursday, the Justice Department said the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office under Joseph Arpaio showed a pattern of unlawful stops, detentions and arrests of Latinos, punishing Latino jail inmates who do not speak English well, and of denying them critical services.

The report said the sheriff's office also retaliated against those who criticized the department's policies and practices. Arpaio has denied the racial profiling allegation.

Justice Department Civil Rights chief Thomas Perez said the his department will try to work with Maricopa County to resolve the issues, but “would not hesitate” to bring legal action against the sheriff's office if it will not cooperate.

The report comes days after the Supreme Court agreed to rule on the southwestern state's controversial 2010 law targeting illegal immigrants.

The Justice Department traced Maricopa County's conduct to failures of training and supervision. The Justice Department also said it was concerned about county deputies using excessive force and failing to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assault.

Arizona's contested law requires police to check a person's immigration status during routine traffic stops, arrests and other investigations if they suspect that individual is in the country illegally. It also requires registered immigrants to carry documentation with them at all times, or be subject to 30 days' imprisonment.

The Obama administration says the law interferes with the federal government's authority over immigration policy.

The high court will consider a federal appeals court decision that blocked key parts of the law from being implemented.