Thursday, December 15, 2011

DOJ Releases Findings of Misconduct in Maricopa County Arizona Sheriff's Office

The Justice Department announced its' findings today in a civil rights investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. The Justice Department found constitutional and civil rights abuses including discriminatory stops and arrests of Latinos. An excerpt of the press release follows and the full report is available here:
The Justice Department found reasonable cause to believe that MCSO, under the leadership of Sheriff Joseph M. Arpaio, has engaged in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law. The investigation, opened in June 2008, was conducted under the provisions of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Title VI implementing regulations.

The department found reasonable cause to believe that a pattern or practice of unconstitutional conduct and/or violations of federal law occurred in several areas, including:

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 Justice Department found a number of long-standing and entrenched systemic deficiencies that caused or contributed to these patterns of unlawful conduct, including:

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.

In addition to these formal pattern or practice findings, the investigation uncovered additional areas of serious concern, including:

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.

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