Last week, the Department of Justice released the results of a three-year investigation into the actions of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, finding the Arizona official had committed rampant abuses and regularly “engages in racial profiling.”
In particular, the study found that Arpaio’s office targeted Latinos both in the workplace and in the streets. “Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers,” read the report, and his office often targeted individuals simply for having “dark skin” or speaking Spanish. In one example, as Ian Millhiser writes, “One inmate was refused new bed sheets, even after she used a fellow inmate to explain in English that her old sheets were soiled, because the jail told the inmate that she had to make the request herself in English.”
Though instances of lawlessness like this have been ubiquitous in Arpaio’s office, conservatives are beginning to rush to the Arizona sheriff’s defense. Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) echoed this sentiment on the radio late last week, telling host G. Gordon Liddy that the investigation was a “waste of taxpayer money.” Poe went on to excuse Arpaio, saying the sheriff was simply “doing his job.”
LIDDY: The attack on the sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio, again by the federal government, accusing him of racial profiling, because apparently Hispanics are more likely to be illegal aliens than anybody else. [...]
POE: [...] Sheriff Arpaio and Maricopa County has the authority under a program called the 287-G program, authorized by the federal government, to investigate people in his jail that are illegally in the United States. He’s authorized by the federal government to do this. Now the federal government is saying, “ahh, we don’t want you doing this anymore,” and has named a bunch of excuses. They’ve been investigating him for three years. It’s amazing. Three-year investigation and they’re still not through. Another waste of taxpayer money. Program authorized by the federal government, approved by this sheriff, and now the federal government is saying, “obviously, he’s doing such a good job we don’t want him doing it anymore and want to take away his ability to even inquire as to people in the county jail as to whether they’re illegally in the country or not.”
The Justice Department’s findings against Arpaio are devastating in their scope. In Maricopa County, there are more individuals – over 540,000 – who primarily speak Spanish than in all but six other counties in the nation, yet Arpaio’s office routinely singled out non-English speakers to target. They even once employed a police operation at a local McDonald’s because they received a letter claiming that one of the workers didn’t speak English. Such racially-motivated targeting has been so commonplace under Arpaio that the Justice Department warned they will “not hesitate to file suit, if necessary,” to end such practices.
Unfortunately, Arpaio will likely continue to dismiss these serious charges – he claimed that it was actually he whose civil rights had been violated by the Justice Department by “calling him every kind of name” – under the cover of defenders like Poe.