Feds Sue Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on September 03, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Department of Justice might say that Sheriff Joe Arpaio is about as easy to negotiate as an Arizona cactus. Discussions over evidence in an on-going civil rights probe of the sheriff's office have been prickly in the past, but now the DOJ must go to court to get the co-operation it wants. The DOJ is suing for access to documents covering the immigration sweeps and jail operations that Sheriff Joe is known for.

This is the first time in the last 30 years that a police or sheriff's agency has refused to cooperate with a Title VI investigation, a DOJ spokeswoman told the Arizona Republic. The Department is seeking to compel the sheriff's office to allow access to the documents and facilities it needs to pursue its case. At stake for Maricopa County are millions in federal funding, according to county records. Under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, programs receiving federal funds may not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color or national origin.

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has always maintained his immigration sweeps are not based on racial profiling as his critics say. Arpaio's office claims that half of the 1,032 people arrested in the sweeps have been illegal immigrants. In traffic stops, Arpaio claims people are stopped if deputies have probable cause to believe they've committed crimes. It's only afterward that deputies find many of them are illegal immigrants.

Arpaio made an initial decision not to co-operate with the DOJ probe, but says the Republic, had appeared to change course in recent weeks, even implying that his office is trying to cooperate with federal civil-rights investigators. "Can't they wait another week?" Arpaio asked. "Why can't they give us a little more time. I thought we were really close to getting this thing resolved."

Resolved or not, Arpaio will still have other things to occupy him. A separate investigation by a federal grand jury in Phoenix is examining allegations that Sherif Joe Arpaio has abused his powers with such tactics as intimidating county workers by showing up at their homes at nights and on weekends.

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