LatinaLista — It’s too bad that the Department of Justice is filing a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, a.k.a. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, in a presidential election year.
It’s too bad not because it shouldn’t be done, but precisely because it’s been needed to be done. But because we are in an election year, rather than believe the charges against Arpaio and his office, people will just chalk it up to politics and not take it seriously — and that would be wrong.
Long before Sheriff Joe dressed all his inmates in pink jumpsuits or conducted his neighborhood raids, Latinos and others in Arizona were spreading the word that something was just not right with a guy who professed his love for the law but had no qualms about manipulating it for his own good. It quickly became obvious that Sheriff Joe had a mental image of what criminals looked like and, unfortunately, that image entailed brown-skinned people with Spanish accents.
According to the lawsuit filed today by the Justice Dept:
The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) and Sheriff Joseph M.Arpaio (Arpaio) have engaged and continue to engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful discriminatory police conduct directed at Latinos in Maricopa County and jail practices that unlawfully discriminate against Latino prisoners with limited English language skills. For example, Latinos in Maricopa County are frequently stopped, detained, and arrested on the basis of race, color, or national origin, and Latino prisoners with limited English language skills are denied important constitutional protections. In addition, Defendants MCSO and Arpaio pursue a pattern or practice of illegal retaliation against their perceived critics by subjecting them to baseless criminal actions, unfounded civil lawsuits, or meritless administrative actions.
It never before bothered Arpaio to be challenged for the way he conducted business but he must be feeling the tide of public opinion turning against him. This morning, he announced departmental changes to his office “in an effort to mend fences with the Hispanic community.”
Arpaio claims he wants to become more transparent and plans to create Latino community forums and give his officers Spanish lessons. Most police departments with large Spanish-speaking communities have provided Spanish classes to their officers long, long ago and for Arpaio to only want to do it now highlights his contempt for Spanish-speakers in his community.
The fact that he was stirred into action when he realized the federal government wasn’t bluffing in bringing real justice to Maricopa County signifies that the man, who thought he was above the law, is realizing that his days in office are being counted down by a community that is finally being take seriously.