Thursday, September 2, 2010

DOJ Suing Arpaio for Refusing to Cooperate on his Abuse of Power Investigation. Now He's Crying Crocodile Tears! reports:
Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been sued by the U.S. Justice Department for refusing to cooperate with a civil-rights probe into police practices and jail operations. Arpaio said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, is disappointing given that he and his office were cooperating on the federal probe. "I thought we were really close to getting this resolved," the sheriff said. (the Sheriff made this claim however previous reports indicate he has refused cooperation)

The lawsuit comes after weeks of the DOJ pleading for cooperation, threats to strip the county of federal funding, and a meeting in Washington last week among attorneys to discuss the investigation. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department has said this is the first time in the last 30 years that a police or sheriff's agency has refused to cooperate with a Title VI investigation. Thursday's action marks the first time the agency is suing to compel access to documents and facilities.
Since March 2009, the Department of Justice Civil Rights Division has been investigating Arpaio's operation amid accusations of discrimination and unconstitutional searches and seizures related to the sheriff's immigration-enforcement efforts. The investigation is being conducted under the authority of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination related to programs that receive federal funds. The civil-rights probe is not related to a separate federal abuse-of-power investigation of Arpaio's office that has been the subject of grand-jury testimony. In the 1990s the Justice Department investigated Arpaio for civil rights abuses in Maricopa County Jails and then, he cooperated, leading to a consent decree to change certain jail conditions.

Arpaio's initial decision not to cooperate with this investigation has led the Sheriff's Office and the Justice Department into uncharted territory. But Arpaio has changed course in recent weeks, implying that his office is trying to cooperate with federal civil-rights investigators. "Can't they wait another week?" Arpaio asked. "Why can't they give us a little more time." "I thought we were really close to getting this thing resolved.

Arpaio appeared with Arizona Sen. Russell Pearce and Rep. Steve Montenegro (two other ANTI CIR zealots) at a press conference Thursday to promote a political non-profit group the men are affiliated with, but he quickly found the event dominated by news that the federal government had sued his agency. "They can sue me but as Russell always says, 'take the handcuffs off the cops'," Arpaio said. "I'm not going to be intimidated by the federal government going to court against us." The sheriff's failure to cooperate could cost the county millions of dollars of federal funding. Last year, the county received $113 million in federal funds, according to county records; of that, the Sheriff's Office received $3.8 million. County officials must agree that they will not discriminate in order to receive those funds.

Arpaio believes the inquiry is focused on his immigration sweeps, patrols where deputies flood an area of a city — in some cases heavily Latino areas — to seek out traffic violators and arrest other offenders. Critics say his deputies pull people over for minor traffic infractions because of the color of their skin so they can ask them for their proof of citizenship. Arpaio denies allegations of racial profiling despite the blatantly obvious proof, suggesting people are stopped if deputies may have probable cause to believe they've committed crimes and supposedly that it's only afterward that deputies find many of them may be illegal immigrants. The sheriff's office has said only half of the 1,032 people arrested in the sweeps have been suspected of illegal immigration.

Last year, the federal government stripped Arpaio of his special power to enforce federal immigration law due to his abuse of power and racial profiling accusations. The sheriff continued his sweeps through the enforcement of state immigration laws.

Last year, the nearly $113 million that the county received from the federal government accounted for about 5 percent of the county's $2 billion budget. Arpaio's office said it receives $3 million to $4 million each year in federal funds.

In a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in Phoenix is examining allegations that Arpaio has abused his powers with actions such as intimidating county workers by showing up at their homes at nights and on weekends.

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