Yesterday, the federal district court in Arizona issued its long-awaited decision in the Sheriff Joe Arpaio racial profiling lawsuit, finding that Sheriff Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office violated the Constitution and illegally relied on racial profiling and illegal detentions to target Latinos. The federal court concluded that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office use of racial profiling was pervasive and widespread. U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow’s decision determined that the policies and practices of Arpaio and his office are discriminatory, and violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Arizona Constitution.
This Court ruling comes after last year’s trial in the case Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio which alleged a pattern of unlawful practices by Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) during immigration sweeps and traffic stops. The plaintiffs did not seek money for the illegal conduct, but instead have asked for a court order a stop the illegal conduct. The plaintiffs proved discriminatory intent in these practices, and the evidence was based on the sheriff’s own internal correspondence and public statements, and admissions that the MCSO uses Hispanic ethnicity as a reason to pursue immigration inquiries. There were also higher stop rates and longer stop times for Hispanics. Aside from from proving racial discrimination, the case also proved that the MCSO improperly detains motorists and passengers without having any adequate basis. These Constitutional violations need to stop.
Arpaio’s unconstitutional and discriminatory abuse of power to seek political gain at the expense of both public safety and the community has come at a great cost to Latinos in Maricopa County, who’ve been forced to endure years of racial harassment and abuse. Arpaio and his office’s rampant racial profiling created a culture of fear in Maricopa County. Latinos and others who simply look or sound “foreign” worry that a trip to the store will end with an unwarranted police interrogation or illegal incarceration at the county jail. Simply put, singling out people out simply because they’re Latino – or any race – is illegal and un-American. It is high time for Sheriff Joe to resign. Arizona deserves better.