The Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday that it would be terminating Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Office 287(g) agreement and restricting its access to the Secure Communities program after a scathing Justice Department report found that the department had been routinely practicing unconstitutional policing.
“The Department of Homeland Security is troubled by the Department of Justice’s findings of discriminatory policing practices within the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO),” said DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano in a statement. “Discrimination undermines law enforcement and erodes the public trust. DHS will not be a party to such practices.”
Following a three-year investigation into MCSO’s practices, DOJ found that the office had engaged in racial profiling, unlawful seizures, unjustified stops and arrests, and other discriminatory actions in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment.
It also found that Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than non-Latino drivers in similar situations.
Other findings included:
- DOJ’s review of all of the traffic-related incident reports generated by MCSO’s Human Smuggling Unit (“HSU”) over a three-year period showed that roughly one-fifth of the reports, almost all of which involved Latino drivers, contained information indicating that the stops were conduct ed in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable seizures.
- Individual accounts regarding MCSO deputies stopping Latinos on the basis of their appearance corroborate the use of discriminatory policing practices.
- DOJ’s investigation uncovered a number of instances in which immigration-related crime suppression activities were initiated in the community after MCSO received complaints that described no criminal activity, put rather referred, for instance, to individuals with “dark skin” congregating in one area, or individuals speaking Spanish at a local business. The use of these types of bias-infected indicators as a basis for conducting enforcement activity contributes to the high number of stops and detentions lacking in legal justification.
- MCSO detention officers discriminatorily punish Latino LEP inmates who fail to understand commands given in English by, for example, locking down their pods (which increases the risk of inmate-on-inmate violence), or imposing disciplinary segregation (solitary confinement).
- MCSO pressures Latino LEP inmates to sign voluntary return forms that implicate constitutional and statutory rights without language assistance.
- MCSO retaliates against individuals who criticize its police practices, including practices relating to its discriminatory treatment of Latinos, by subjecting its critics to retaliatory detentions and arrests without cause, unfounded civil lawsuits, and other baseless complaints.
- MCSO fosters and perpetuates discriminatory police and jail practices by failing to operate in accordance with basic policing and correctional practices and by failing to develop and implement policing and correctional safeguards against discrimination in such areas as training, supervision, and accountability systems.
“We find that MCSO deputies, detention officers, supervisory staff, and command staff, including Sheriff Arpaio, have engaged in a widespread pattern or practice of law enforcement and jail activities that discriminate against Latinos,” wrote writers of the report. “This discrimination flows directly from a culture of bias and institutional deficiencies that result in the discriminatory treatment of Latinos.”
The report puts into question DHS’s own practices in oversight and racial profiling training. In June, DHS announced that it would create a program to protect civil rights and civil liberties, which included a “Secure Communities 101″ video to train police in their responsibilities to protect civil rights and a quarterly statistical oversight tool to look for signs of improper police practices.
The findings by DOJ may also offer a precedent for communities that have been trying to opt-out of the program over the last year and who argue that programs like Secure Communities promotes racial profiling.
Below is the report, feel free to add your comments.