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Feds’ sue Ariz. sheriff Arpaio over allegations of racial profiling of Latinos


The U.S. Justice Department sued America’s self-proclaimed toughest sheriff Thursday, a rare step for the agency after months of negotiations failed to reach a settlement over allegations that his department racially profiled Latinos in his trademark immigration patrols.
Supporters of Arizona's immigration law earlier this week protest a decision by the Los Angeles City Council to boycott Arizona. (AP/Damien Dovarganes)

DOJ to challenge Arizona law

May 27, 2010 7:23 AM

by Richard A. Serrano and Kate Linthicum





Top Justice Department officials have drafted a legal challenge asserting that Arizona’s controversial immigration law is unconstitutional because it impinges on the federal government’s authority to police the nation’s borders, sources said Wednesday.
At the same time, the government officials said, the department’s civil rights section is considering possible legal action against the law on the basis that it amounts to racial profiling of Latinos who are legally in Arizona but conceivably could be asked to provide documents proving their citizenship.
U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. met Wednesday with nine top police chiefs who object to the Arizona legislation and promised them he would act on the recommendations soon, a spokesman said.
Federal officials said that only once before has the agency filed a lawsuit against a police department that they were unable to reach an agreement with in the 18-year history of the DOJ’s police reform efforts. The lawsuit means that a federal judge will decide the escalating standoff with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
“We have invariably been able to work collaboratively with law enforcement agencies to build better departments and safer communities,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, who heads the DOJ’s civil rights division, at a news conference.
The DOJ first leveled the allegations against Arpaio in December, saying that a culture of disregard for basic constitutional rights prevailed at the office, which covers metro Phoenix. Talks to reach a settlement broke off last month.
At a news conference Wednesday, after DOJ officials notified him of their intent to sue, Arpaio defended himself.
“If they sue, we’ll go to court,” he said. “And then we’ll find out the real story. They’re telling me how to run my organization. I’d like to get this resolved, but I’m not going to give up my authority to the federal government. It’s as simple as that.”
A federal law passed in the aftermath of the Rodney King verdict and the Los Angeles riots prohibited police agencies from systematically violating constitutional rights. Normally, settlements are negotiated and filed in court as part of lawsuits that aren’t contested by the police agencies.
In enforcing the law, the DOJ has only taken the Columbus, Ohio, police department to federal court in 1999, but the police agency eventually settled the case, Perez said.
In addition to racial profiling, Arpaio’s office is accused of punishing Hispanic jail inmates for speaking Spanish and launching some patrols based on complaints about dark-skinned people congregating in a given area or speaking Spanish. A crime was never reported.more from WP


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