Operating on the assumption that not all MCSO deputies are as lame as their organization's titular tyrant and his immediate underlings, I apologize in advance to those beige-shirts who, contrary to this blog's header, can chew gum and drive at the same time.
My title's query is prompted by the MCSO's latest filings in the ACLU's racial profiling lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio, which Arpaio lost, big time, in May, when federal Judge G. Murray Snow found Arpaio's agency guilty of prejudiced policing toward Latinos and ordered it to stop.
Problem is, Arpaio and his flunkies have yet to get it it through their thick skulls that they've been a bad sheriff's office and will have to do what Judge Snow says in regard to enforcing his final order, like, accepting a court-appointed monitor.
During the most recent status conference in Melendres, occurring on August 30, both sides discussed how MCSO deputies one day will record their stops, even when there is no arrest or citation, something the parties have already agreed to in principle.
What's to keep a deputy from making up a reason for a stop after the fact? Especially when said deputy works for a law enforcement agency with a reputation for institutional bigotry and dishonesty?
(Keep in mind that the MCSO was caught destroying evidence of stops that occurred during Arpaio's immigration sweeps, and as a result, the defense was sanctioned by the court.)
Snow offered this suggestion: have the officer call in the reason for a stop before he or she pulls over a vehicle.
Arpaio's lead attorney Tim Casey indicated that the MCSO might have legitimate law enforcement objections to Snow's recommendation. So Snow ordered that Casey submit a three page memo explaining any objections, and the plaintiffs would then reply to that memo with their own three pager, excluding any exhibits.
Casey's submittal, filed last week, asserts that, even though MCSO deputies already call in traffic stops to MCSO dispatch before pulling over a "suspect vehicle," it would just be too dang hard for deputies to mention the reason for the stop.
To bolster the point, Casey includes a declaration from MCSO Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, who avers, in part, the following:
Given the fact that suspect vehicles often do not immediately stop when deputies activate their lights and sirens, which alters the location of the stop, deputies often do not call in a traffic stop until the suspect vehicle is actually pulling over so that the deputy's precise and current location is known to MCSO dispatchers and other officers.
As a result, there is often no considerable lead-time between the deputy calling in the traffic stop to dispatch and the suspect vehicle pulling over.
The deputy's attention during this time must be directed as completely as possible at assessing the risks and circumstances involving the now-stopped suspect vehicle and not on replaying in his mind all the lawful reasons for initiating the traffic stop and relaying these to an MCSO dispatcher. (emphasis added)
You gotta love that last line. Why would a deputy need to replay in his or her noggin all the "lawful reasons" for initiating a traffic stop? Wouldn't the deputy know why he or she is stopping a vehicle?
But if there wasn't a reason (or if the reason was, um, race-based), then the deputy would have to come up with a legit one real quick, and such cognitive functions can make a deputy's brain hurt.
At least that's Sheridan's position. He also complains that radio-ing in the reason for a stop, which might take a second or two, would waste valuable radio air time and put officers at risk.
Moreover, Sheridan claims he cannot find an instance of any other law enforcement agency having to follow a policy like the one the judge is suggesting.
Why, Sheridan had his staff "contact 27 law enforcement agencies in and around Maricopa County," but nary a one makes its officers call in a reason for a stop.
Plaintiffs' attorneys responded to this pesky gnat with a bazooka, pointing out that if Sheridan had made a long distance call, or just done a little obvious research, he could have found at least two law enforcement agencies out of state where the rules ordered by a court were even tougher.
The plaintiffs lawyers' write:
The Court's suggestion is consistent with, and more modest than, provisions in other consent decrees and court-adopted settlements. The New Jersey Consent Decree required officers to contact dispatch before making contact with a vehicle to provide the description of the vehicle and occupants, number of occupants, their apparent race/ethnicity and gender, and the reason for the stop, unless circumstances rendered it unsafe or impracticable....
The East Haven Agreement requires that, prior to making each traffic stop, officers notify dispatch about known information, including the number of occupants of the vehicle, the perceived race or ethnicity of the occupants, and a description of the basis for the stop...
Concerning safety, the plaintiffs' proposed language concerning Snow's suggestion contains a loophole, in the case that, "exigent circumstances make it unsafe or impracticable for the deputy to contact dispatch."
The plaintiffs also include the declaration of law enforcement expert Robert Stewart, who observes that stating a reason for a stop can actually "increase officer safety."
Deputies already call in "the license plate and the location of the stop," Stewart says. The additional information could take "as little as a few seconds to relay," and informing dispatch of the nature of the stop could be valuable in alerting any other officers who might respond.
As for the complaints about burning through a couple more seconds of radio time, this is not a significant issue, according to Stewart.
"In my experience," he writes, "prior to the use of onboard computers, there was a great deal more traffic on the radios. As traffic has already been reduced, the additional few seconds to call out the reason for a stop should not present a problem.
"Further, although it is my opinion that having deputies call-in the reason for motor vehicle stops should not pose any concern with respect to airtime, if MCSO prefers, it has the option of adding one or more radio channels."
Ultimately, the cavils of Sheridan, Casey and Arpaio signal a stubborn resistance to change, change necessary to ensure the constitutional rights of those the MCSO has been found guilty of profiling.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Will some of this change be a pain in the keister for deputies and management? You betcha.
But, hey, maybe the MCSO's upper echelon should have thought about that when it was shredding documents, discriminating against Latinos, and terrorizing whole communities with the sweeps.
I mean, why do these doofs think they're in court to begin with? Sheesh.