Back in the late 1990s, the Justice Department ordered Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to stop the physical and medical abuse of inmates in county jails.
The problems persist more than a decade later, despite the Department's stipulations for reform.
Today, the Justice Department ordered Arpaio to reform a "culture" of racial bias he created. Various remedial measures are demanded, with the threat of a lawsuit if Arpaio doesn't comply.
Such reform would take time -- if it occurs at all. The feds want Arpaio to commit to a regimen of training for deputies, form new policies, create statistical databases, and address complaints better.
As Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Perez made clear in his news conference this morning, the feds will work with Arpaio to solve the discrimination problems. Not against him.
No punitive measures are to be taken, despite evidence showing that Arpaio and his deputies knowingly commit racial profiling and retaliation against their critics.
"Less finger-pointing and more problem solving has been our approach," Perez said. "We're going to move forward."
He offered the Los Angeles Police Department as an example. When civil rights abuses were identified there in the 1990s, he said, the Justice Department was asked whether it was trying to "change the unchangeable."
Using the authority of Title 42, Section 14141 of U.S. law, which deals with police departments with a "pattern and practice" of violating rights, the LAPD culture was "transformed," Perez said.
Perez was asked several times by reporters what could be done about Arpaio, whom Perez readily identified as the ringleader of the misconduct. The Justice Department official reiterated that the goal was to collaborate with the sheriff. Perez says he recognized that the "community was divided" in its opinion about Arpaio, but that it is "time to heal."
The Justice Department's plan demands that Arpaio "develop and implement:"
* Training for deputies on how not to violate civil rights.
* Better policies regarding its immigration sweeps and human smuggling enforcement.
* A computer system that will collect and track data related to traffic and immigration stops, searches and seizures, and worksite raids.
* An internal system that allows for the public and other law enforcement officers to complain about deputies violating civil rights, plus a better investigative process to deal with violators.
* A "comprehensive language-access program" for deputies who encounter limited English speakers.
* Better community outreach. "MCSO must engage with and reach out to Maricopa County's Latino residents to ensure that it is fairly and effectively providing them with law enforcement services."
Arpaio plans to respond to the findings at a 4 p.m. news conference.
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Feathered Bastard: Joe Arpaio Hammered by Politicians, Activists Praising DOJ Report
See our past coverage of the DOJ investigations of Arpaio.
Read the full DOJ letter on the Arpaio investigation.