An Arizona sheriff whose office has been accused of a wide range of civil rights violations faces a Wednesday deadline to say whether his agency will hold discussions with federal officials about ways to correct the alleged violations.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told The Associated Press last week that his office will cooperate with the U.S. Justice Department but noted he’s prepared to go to court if the federal agency sues the sheriff’s office in a bid to force changes.
The Justice Department has said it’s prepared to sue Arpaio if the sheriff’s office isn’t interested in working out an agreement or doesn’t make a good-faith effort to voluntarily overhaul its policies.
The sheriff’s office and its lawyers didn’t respond to requests from the AP for comment about whether the agency would agree to the discussions with the Justice Department.
But The Arizona Republic reports on Wednesday that Sheriff’s Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre said the police agency will cooperate with federal officials.
The Justice Department released a report last month alleging that Arpaio’s office racially profiles Latinos, bases immigration enforcement on racially charged citizen complaints and punishes Hispanic jail inmates for speaking Spanish.
The sheriff has denied the allegations and called the Justice Department’s report a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration.
The civil rights allegations have led some Arpaio critics to call for the sheriff’s resignation. Arpaio has said he won’t resign and intends to seek a sixth term this year.
The Justice Department wants the sheriff’s office to receive training in constitutional policing and dealing with jail inmates with limited English skills, collect data on traffic stops and immigration enforcement, and establish a comprehensive disciplinary system that permits the public to make complaints against officers without fear of retaliation.
Separate from the civil rights probe, a federal grand jury also has been investigating Arpaio’s office on criminal abuse-of-power allegations since at least December 2009.
The grand jury is examining the investigative work of the sheriff’s anti-public corruption squad.