Joe Arpaio's Monitor Gets Expanded Power to Investigate MCSO

Former MCSO Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz.
Former MCSO Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz.

The federal judge in the racial-profiling case against the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has expanded the investigative powers of the monitor assigned to the agency.

Over concerns that MCSO employees "may continue to be engaged in efforts to frustrate the implementation of this Court's Orders, and may in fact be using the internal investigative processes to conceal widespread departmental misconduct," Judge G. Murray Snow has issued orders expanding the monitor's oversight of MCSO's internal investigations.

"He made it clear to MCSO that he had expanded his authority to conduct these investigations because MCSO did such a terrible job investigating their own officers," ACLU of Arizona executive director Alessandra Soler tells New Times. The ACLU of Arizona and others are representing the plaintiffs in the racial-profiling case.

See also: -A Deputy's Death Opens the Door Onto a World Corruption in Sheriff Joe's MCSO

This stems from the death earlier this year of MCSO Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz, who committed suicide in May after being arrested on drug charges. When MCSO searched his home, they found evidence bags with drugs, along with hundreds of license plates, driver's licenses, ID cards, passports, credit cards, and wallets. The belief is that Armendariz, a member of Arpaio's infamous Human Smuggling Unit -- and who had testified in this very case -- was shaking down the immigrants he'd pulled over.

It was also discovered that Armendariz had independently recorded some of his own traffic stops, leading to the revelation that any number of members of the Human Smuggling Unit had been recording their stops -- none of which had been turned over as evidence for trial, as they should have been.

Judge Snow has described MCSO's response to this as wholly inadequate.

For one, Snow had ordered monitor Robert Warshaw and Arpaio's Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan to quietly obtain any existing video deputies took of their traffic stops. It didn't happen quietly -- Deputy Chief David Trombi, who apparently didn't know it was supposed to be kept on the down-low, sent a memo to some at MCSO, essentially tipping them off to the collection of video.

Beyond that, there was supposed to be an internal investigation into misconduct among Human Smuggling Unit, which was a joke.

Snow, citing Warshaw's report on the investigation, described that "this investigation the MCSO employed deficient investigative tactics, suffered from serious irregularities in departmental processes as it related to persons under investigations, and suffered from potential conflicts of interest."

(Also, "Since the hearing, additional evidence has come to light further demonstrating the inadequacy of that investigation.")

Meanwhile, MCSO was keeping all kinds of documents in the Armendariz case, citing privileged information. Snow in his order outlined giving Warshaw "complete access" to MCSO's internal investigations, and he's taken that order even further this week, with a new order that essentially clarifies that MCSO has to comply with the monitor's investigations. That includes clarifying that Warshaw has access to all kinds of documents, which, in the Armendariz case, had often been redacted.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX. Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.

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