Racial Profiling by MCSO Leads to Stricter Controls

Racial profiling and wrongful arrests are issues facing Arizona due to procedures surrounding immigration laws, but U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow is imposing stricter rulings in order to clean up Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s controversial conduct and keep law enforcement accountable, according to a report from the Arizona Republic.

Cases involving racial profiling sparked the need for Snow’s stricter impositions. Examples from the Arizona Republic include Manuel de Jesus Ortega Malendres, who was legally visiting Cave Creek when he claimed to have been unlawfully detained for nine hours outside of a church in an area where people are known to seek day labor.

After the Melendres case, two Hispanic siblings from Chicago complained of racial profiling from deputies, and the Hispanic husband to an assistant of former Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon claimed that nearby white motorists were ignored while he was cited for traffic violations and detained unlawfully.

Four months ago, Snow ruled that Arpaio’s immigration enforcement tactics were a violation of the constitutional rights of thousands of Latinos. On Wednesday, Snow issued a follow-up ruling with the proper operations that should be a part of the daily routine at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

The plaintiffs in these cases did not focus on monetary damages in court, but rather wanted to enforce elements that the sheriff and deputies have long resisted, including, “a declaration that spells out what deputies may or may not do when stopping potential suspects, and a court-appointed monitor to make sure the agency lives by those rules,” the Arizona Republic reported.

Snow, recognizing the demand for the requests made by the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona lead by the group’s legal director Dan Pochoda, aims to include cameras in every deputy’s car, increase data collection and reporting, implement a community-advisory board and a court-appointed monitor. These rulings demonstrate steps toward preventing future discrimination, however, compliance from Arpaio and the deputies is needed to do so successfully.

MCSO plans to appeal the ruling but continue to try to comply with the court order while the appeal is pending, according to Arpaio’s attorney. If the agency refuses to comply, a court-ordered oversight will be issued or MCSO officials could be found in contempt of federal court. Read more here on an example of failure to comply in which a lawsuit and oversight brought to Sheriff Arpaio in 1977 took 30 years to be lifted.

Besides compliance from officials, budget is another leading constraint facing these rulings. Snow plans to use all possible funding from MCSO to pay for necessary resources before cutting into the funding of other agencies.

“I am not going to be involved in relieving you from the requirements of that order because you can’t afford it,” Snow said in the article regarding the cost of these rulings. “Be sure you understand that.”

Arpaio’s office has practiced his controversial style of immigration enforcement for many years, so it is uncertain exactly how he and his deputies will work with the new rulings.

“He came to this reform, if you want to call it that, as a very unwilling party. It’s a very big problem,” University of Pittsburgh professor and national expert on racial profiling David Harris said in the Arizona Republic article. “Will he drag his heels? Will he be a willing participant? Has he seen the light? Those questions, I think, remain to be answered. He has made mistakes that have put him where he is now. The question is whether he wants to correct them.”

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