Feds threaten to sue Arizona sheriff

April 4, 2012 at 8:24 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Justice Department says it may sue a controversial Arizona sheriff for failing to cooperate in negotiations to correct alleged civil rights violations.

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is accused of unconstitutional racial profiling in traffic stops and arrests of Latinos. The Justice Department says a 3 1/2-year federal investigation found the sheriff's office discriminated against Latinos with limited English-speaking ability in jails, denied them services other inmates receive and retaliated against critics of unconstitutional racial profiling in traffic stops and arrests of Latinos.


The Justice Department said it would work with Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to correct violations, but warned it would file a lawsuit under the federal Civil Rights Act if the sheriff refuses to cooperate or does not reach an agreement with federal officials.

Settlement negotiations appear to have fallen through after Arpaio refused to agree to a court-appointed monitor to oversee changes in his department, The Washington Post reported Wednesday.

"We believe that you are wasting time and not negotiating in good faith," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy L. Austin Jr. wrote in a letter to Arpaio's attorney, the newspaper said. "Your tactics have required DOJ to squander valuable time and resources."

Arpaio, who calls himself "America's toughest sheriff," has denied any racial profiling and says the investigation is politically motivated.

The Justice Department said a monitor of the sheriff's department is non-negotiable.

"DOJ considers the oversight of an independent monitor to be an absolute necessity for meaningful and sustainable reform," Austin wrote in the letter.

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