Arpaio's Office 'Too Slow' to Comply with Court Orders in ACLU Racial-Profiling Case

The monitor appointed by a federal judge to make sure that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office complies with court orders to stop racial profiling Latinos says the office has a lot more work to do.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow appointed Robert Warshaw, a retired police chief, to ensure that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office implements the reforms the judge has ordered in the landmark civil-rights case Melendres v. Arpaio. Part of Warshaw's job is to hold public meetings and issue quarterly reports on the MCSO's compliance progress.

At a public meeting Wednesday night in Tolleson, Warshaw said the MCSO has followed some of the judge's orders, including requiring deputies to wear body cameras. He referred to the implementation of the body cameras as "important progress," but was quick to point out that "the progress has been too slow" in many other areas.

"They should be further down the line than they in fact are, and we're very mindful of that," Warshaw told New Times. "We expect them to speed up the progress."

This comes as Snow has ordered Arpaio's office to make more sweeping reforms.

Warshaw talked about some of those reforms during Wednesday night's meeting. He said the reforms include expanding his responsibilities and authority as monitor over the investigation of allegations of misconduct against the MCSO.

Deputies will also be required to carry complaint forms in their vehicles and provide those forms to the public when requested. In addition, a 24-hour telephone hotline must be implemented to allow people to call in to file complaints.

The public had a chance to comment on the new court-ordered reforms during Wednesday night's meeting. On hand to answer questions were attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed the racial-profiling lawsuit against Arpaio and his office in 2007, and attorneys representing Arpaio's office.

One person raised questions about whether Arpaio could face criminal charges for disobeying court orders. Another asked what compensation would be given to Latinos who were illegally pulled over or detained during the period when Arpaio's office violated court orders to stop conducting immigration patrols.

Attorneys for the ACLU explained that those are among the issues Judge Snow has yet to address.

They said Arpaio could face fines and even jail time for disobeying court orders, but only if Snow recommends a criminal contempt prosecution of the sheriff. They also said they're confident Snow will require that a system be created so that Latinos who were victims of illegal stops or detention will receive compensation.
Roberto Garcia Bueno spoke at the meeting about the tension he feels every time he encounters an officer or deputy, especially during traffic stops.

"I wish they could be more courteous," he said.

Warshaw ended the evening by addressing those concerns, saying that public meetings like the one held Wednesday help improve the relationship between law-enforcement officers and the communities they serve.

"Only through meaningful dialogue can we solve these issues," Warshaw said.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.