LatinaLista — When it comes to immigration enforcement, outside of ICE or the Department of Homeland Security, only one other law enforcement department has become as synonymous with conducting hunts for undocumented immigrants — Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, or the one name that embodies the infamous department, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Sheriff Joe’s “crime suppression” sweeps have catapulted this limelight-loving officer to the forefront of the illegal immigration debate where local politicians are afraid to challenge him in public and the sheriff himself has become so emboldened by his notoriety that he routinely issues press releases and holds court at press conferences to denounce those officials, state or local, who don’t agree with him.
In fact, the sheriff considers himself such an authority on how to enforce immigration law, he’s currently making the rounds of book stores to sign his latest book Joe’s Law: America’s Toughest Sheriff Takes on Illegal Immigration, Drugs and Everything Else That Threatens America.
From the title alone, it can be deduced that Sheriff Joe sees himself as a savior of sorts but there’s no clearer sign that his perspective is delusional after reading an excellent five-part series on the sheriff and how his focus on immigration enforcement has not only promoted racial profiling by his officers but also has encouraged a climate of trumping up charges against people to justify traffic stops and ignoring the true criminals in his jurisdiction who, it’s reported, have been granted carte blanche to committing crimes since Sheriff Joe and his team are too busy scouring the highways and area towns for anyone who looks like they’re “illegal.”
The five-part interactive East Valley Tribune series titled “Reasonable Doubt is an excellent, objective and in-depth report that traces the evolution of Sheriff Joe’s policies, their impact on his department and his constituents and the byproducts that have arisen because of his tactics, both internally and externally.
The newspaper’s editors explain that the investigative journalism piece began six months ago and was based on three basic questions: How does Arpaio’s illegal immigration enforcement strategy work? What is it costing the taxpayers? And what is the effect on other aspects of his agency — and public safety in general — if his focus has become so heavily on illegal immigration?
Though the whole series is an eye-opening case study on how one man changed his political fortunes by manipulating a controversial issue, there were some key findings that the newspaper editors felt were worthy to be highlighted. Among them were:
Deputies are failing to meet the county’s standard for response times on life-threatening emergencies. In 2006 and 2007, patrol cars arrived late two-thirds of the time on more than 6,000 of the most serious calls for service.
The sheriff’s “saturation” patrols and “crime suppression/anti-illegal immigration” sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods are done without any evidence of criminal activity, violating federal regulations intended to prevent racial profiling.
Deputies regularly make traffic stops based only on their suspicion that illegal immigrants are inside vehicles. They figure out probable cause after deciding whom to pull over.
It is evident that “driving while brown” is a very serious and real issue in Sheriff Joe’s jurisdiction.
Given the documented abuse of power to create imaginary or exaggerated grounds for arrests and his single-minded focus on catching people whose only crimes are being in the country illegally compared to the rapists, murderers and burglars whom his department is ignoring just to say they catch “illegal immigrants” is a flagrant abuse of his position, public monies and the civil rights of those he stops and those he’s sworn to protect.
What is so startling about the Reasonable Doubt series is that Sheriff Joe and his officers seem to flaunt their abuse of power in front of these reporters because they know no one locally will challenge them.
For that reason, it’s imperative that a bipartisan federal probe be launched to determine just how much at risk Sheriff Joe and his officers are putting the constituents of Maricopa County in for the sake of appearing tough on illegal immigration, as well as, determine the extent of unethical behavior by this department in making immigration arrests.
It’s said that Sheriff Joe doesn’t like people questioning his tactics nor his motives but nor do people like to be stopped because they simply “look illegal.”