Feds issue scathing report against AZ sheriff

December 16, 2011 • National News

Department of Justice Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division Thomas E. Perez, left, gestures as he announces the department’s findings following an investigation into the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, lead by controversial Sheriff Joe Arpaio, during a news conference, as Deputy Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division Roy Austin, right, looks on Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011 in Phoenix. The Justice department says it has reasonable cause to believe Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has engaged in a pattern of misconduct that violates federal and Constitutional law. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)

PHOENIX (AP) — A scathing U.S. Justice Department report released Thursday found that Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office carried out a blatant pattern of discrimination against Latinos and held a “systematic disregard” for the Constitution amid a series of immigration crackdowns that have turned the lawman into a prominent national political figure.

Arpaio struck a defiant tone in response to the report, calling it a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration that will make Arizona unsafe by keeping illegal immigrants on the street. “Don’t come here and use me as the whipping boy for a national and international problem,” he said at a news conference.

The government found that Arpaio’s office committed a wide range of civil rights violations against Latinos, including unjust immigration patrols and jail policies that deprive prisoners of basic Constitutional rights.

The Justice Department’s expert on measuring racial profiling found the sheriff’s office to be the most egregious case of profiling in the nation that he has seen or reviewed in professional literature, said Thomas Perez, who heads the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

“We found discriminatory policing that was deeply rooted in the culture of the department, a culture that breeds a systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections,” Perez said.

The report will be used by the Justice Department to seek major changes at Arpaio’s office, such as new policies against discrimination and improvements of staff and officers. Arpaio faces a Jan. 4 deadline for saying whether he wants to work out an agreement to make the changes. If not, the federal government will sue him, possibly putting in jeopardy millions of dollars in federal funding for Maricopa County.

The fallout from the report was swift. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it is severing its ties with Arpaio, stripping his jail officers of their federal power to check whether inmates in Login to read more

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