The results of a federal investigation of the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona were devastating-enough to terminate all cooperation with federal immigration programs and to force Sheriff Joe Arpaio to resign.
The Justice Department’s list of irregularities includes the use of racial profiling against Latinos, discriminatory jail practices against inmates with limited English proficiency and unlawful retaliation against people who criticize his policies and actions. At the same time, there are ongoing investigations about excessive force allegations, not providing adequate police services in Latino communities in his jurisdiction and a failure to investigate sexual abuse allegations.
The investigation’s results condemn Arpaio’s methods. Arpaio proudly calls himself “the toughest,” when in reality he seems to deserve the title of “the most abusive” of his police powers. In addition, a grand jury is exploring the possibility of bringing criminal charges against him.
This development against Arpaio is ironic because while the federal investigation’s results were being prepared, the sheriff was being courted by GOP presidential candidates who sought his support.
Both the investigation of Arpaio and claims about his excesses were known. Nevertheless, for the Republican base, apparently blind on the immigration issue, it is better to violate civil rights than to respect the law.
Arpaio, on the other hand, is the best example of the lack of control and disorganization of the federal programs involving cooperation between local and federal authorities on immigration. The investigation and its results will not cure the damage caused to Arizona’s Latino community.
The credibility of the Maricopa Sheriff’s Department is shot as long as Arpaio remains in place. He already said he would not resign; therefore, we hope the local Board of Supervisors joins the federal effort to force his ouster or dismissal.
Finally, we think the Justice Department should suspend the Secure Communities program until it is confirmed that the irregularities Arpaio committed are an exception and not the best known example of a nationwide problem involving the unlawful exercise of authority.