Today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) sued Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, accusing his office of refusing to turn over records since the DOJ opened its investigation into allegations of racial profiling and civil rights abuse. The DOJ “seeks declaratory and injunctive relief against Maricopa County.” In other words, the DOJ wants a court “to compel access to the requested documents, facilities and personnel.” In its complaint, the DOJ states:
Since March 2009, the United States has attempted to secure Defendants’ voluntary cooperation with the United States’ investigation of alleged national origin discrimination in Defendants’ police practices and jail operations. Despite notice of their obligation to comply in full with the United States’ requests for information, Defendants have refused to do so.Defendants’ refusal to cooperate with reasonable requests for information regarding the use of federal funds is a violation of Defendants’ statutory, regulatory, and contractual obligations.
The suit comes after the DOJ gave Arpaio’s office a September deadline to supply all documents requested for its investigation. Arpaio’s office responded with a letter expressing surprise that the DOJ feels “entitled to any document it wants, to access any facility it wishes, and to interview any witness it wants, without limitation…is simply unreasonable.” A spokeswoman for the Justice Department stated that it’s “unprecedented for an agency to refuse to cooperate with a Title VI investigation.” This is the first time the DOJ has filed a law suit to compel access to documents and facilities. Arizona’s ABC12 News notes that the sheriff’s failure to cooperate could cost the county millions of dollars of federal funding.
The FBI has reportedly also launched an investigation into whether Arpaio has been “using his position to settle political vendettas.”