Leaders offer recommendations on Arpaio’s office
Published: March 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm
Latino and black leaders in metro Phoenix released a long list of recommendations Friday for overhauling Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office and asked the U.S. Department of Justice to consider the proposals during negotiations to settle civil rights allegations against Arpaio’s office.
The recommendations include requiring Arpaio’s officers to undergo training on cultural diversity and on guarding against racial profiling, collecting more information to better monitor officers’ conduct and developing a better complaint and disciplinary system to hold officers accountable when they violate policies or the law.
The Latino and black leaders also want Arpaio to hire more bilingual deputies and jail officers, require his office to assure the Latino community that it’s there to protect it and to run public service announcements describing the process for making complaints against the police agency.
“We have a sheriff in this county who has no regard for the Latino community and thinks we are pawns to be toyed with,” said Antonio Bustamante, a civil rights attorney in Phoenix who is part of the group of leaders.
The Justice Department has accused Arpaio’s office of racially profiling Latinos, basing immigration enforcement on racially charged citizen complaints and punishing Hispanic jail inmates for speaking Spanish. Arpaio denies the allegations and said the investigation is politically motivated.
The leaders delivered the list of recommendations to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Phoenix on Friday. The group isn’t part of negotiations to settle the allegations but said the Justice Department encouraged them to provide community input to help shape a settlement.
The department is seeking a consent decree in which Arpaio’s office would promise to set up effective policies against discrimination, improve training and make other changes that would be monitored for compliance by a judge.
An April 14 deadline has been set for Arpaio’s lawyers and the Justice Department to complete their attempt to resolve the allegations.
Federal authorities are continuing to investigate complaints of deputies using excessive force against Latinos, the sheriff’s immigration efforts damaging trust with the Hispanic community and a large number of sex-crimes cases that were assigned to the agency but weren’t followed up on or investigated.
The sheriff’s office declined to comment on the recommendations. The Justice Department said in a statement that it welcomes the community’s feedback and continues to seek input.
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