08/05/2011

Arpaio: Feds have not told him of any violations

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's probe by the Justice Department began in March 2009

By Jacques Billeaud
Associated Press

PHOENIX — Sheriff Joe Arpaio said Thursday that federal officials who have been investigating racial profiling allegations against his office for more than two years have not informed him of any constitutional violations by his deputies.

The sheriff of Maricopa County, known for his immigration patrols and tough jail policies, said the Justice Department would have to take action to stop racial profiling if investigators had found violations.

"I am tired of this situation in the media, around the country and the world, talking about I'm under investigation for alleged racial profiling," the frustrated Arpaio said about the length of the investigation and the bad publicity.

"Let's get it over with and be fair and go public and say the sheriff is doing a good job on this matter," he said.

The Justice Department probe began in March 2009 amid allegations of discrimination, unconstitutional searches and seizures, and for having an English-only policy in his jails that discriminates against people with limited English skills.

Federal lawyers have provided few details of the probe, but Arpaio has said it is focused on his immigration sweeps.

During the patrols, deputies flood an area of a city _ in some cases, heavily Latino areas _ over several days to seek traffic violators and arrest others.

Critics say Arpaio's deputies target people for minor infractions based on their skin color so they can ask for proof of citizenship. Arpaio has repeatedly denied racial profiling allegations and said his officers handled the traffic stops properly.

The Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Arpaio last year in a bid to get records and access to sheriff's employees and jail inmates as part of the civil rights investigation.

The lawsuit was dismissed Monday after Arpaio's office and the Justice Department reached an earlier settlement. The Department of Justice said the sheriff's office had cooperated since the lawsuit was filed by handing over records and giving access to employees and jails.

The federal agency released a written statement Thursday saying its investigation is continuing and Arpaio's office is cooperating.

Lydia Guzman, a board member of the Phoenix-based Hispanic civil rights group Somos America, said Arpaio is to blame for the length of the investigation because his earlier refusal to cooperate with investigators slowed the examination.

"If it was true that there was nothing on him, then why would he be afraid to turn over information?" Guzman said.

Arpaio doesn't expect the civil rights investigation to be resolved until after his 2012 re-election campaign.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press

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