Like most bullies, Arpaio picks only on people who can’t fight back. He is empowered by a population of voters in Maricopa County who obviously feel anxious over changing demographics and have a need to feel superior to someone. Those who come from south of the border – or whose ancestors did – fill this role.
When things go this wrong, the federal government has to make them right. After a three-year investigation, the Justice Department recently issued a scathing report that accused Arpaio’s office of having a “pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos,” engaging in “unconstitutional policing” that includes raids based on racially tinged citizen complaints, and retaliating against critics.
Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow dealt Arpaio another blow in a case involving a civil rights lawsuit from 2007, in which sheriff’s deputies were accused of racially profiling Latinos in immigration sweeps masquerading as traffic stops. In addition to issuing legal sanctions against Arpaio for destroying documents, Snow also barred the sheriff and his deputies from detaining people simply for being in the country illegally. The judge – who criticized deputies for circulating e-mails that “compared Mexicans to dogs” – certified the lawsuit as a class action that would cover all Latinos who have been “stopped, detained, questioned or searched” by Arpaio’s officers.
It’s about time this bill came due.