Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio -- flanked by two attorneys and MCSO Deputy Chief Jack MacIntyre -- held a press conference this afternoon to address the Department of Justice's findings that his office is on the hook for the worst-racial profiling practices in U.S. history.
In short, the four men came to the same conclusion: the DOJ's investigation was a political "witch hunt" carried out to score President Barack Obama votes in the upcoming presidential election.
In fact, during the 35-minute press conference, "witch hunt" was just one of several terms the sheriff and his cronies used to describe the DOJ's investigation, and the timing of the release of the report (Arpaio and his pals described the investigation as a "dog-and-pony show," "political pandering," "a sneak attack," and "a punch in the face").
MacIntyre, at one point, even compared the timing of the report to Pearl Harbor, claiming he and other MCSO officials were stunned that the DOJ decided to drop the hammer this morning.
So is the MCSO guilty of a pattern of racial profiling, as the Justice Department says? Of course not -- according to the sheriff and his buddies.
"When you arrest 50,000 people -- 50,000 people -- [there are bound to be a few complaints]" Arpaio explains. "There is no pattern, and I think that will be proven."
MacIntyre went further, saying every large law enforcement agency has problems.
"Do we have isolated incidents? Yes...every agency is going to make mistakes," he says. "What [the DOJ's report] is focused on is a system-wide scheme, and when you take the handful of examples that the Department of Justice provides, that is not a systemic problem."
Angry during much of the press conference, MacIntyre insisted that the DOJ's 22-page report provides no specific allegations of wrongdoing.
"There are really no specific allegations in [the report]," he claims. "There are generalities, there are claims made by a few people that are unidentified."
|Joe Arpaio refused to say racial profiling doesn't occur at the MCSO.|
One specific example found within the report (which you can see for yourself here) is that a study commissioned by the DOJ found that "Latino drivers are four-to-nine times more likely to be stopped [by Arpaio's deputies] than similarly situated non-Latino drivers."
For that statistic not to be a pattern of racial profiling (or an implausible coincidence), brown-skinned motorists -- as a whole -- would all have to be four-to-nine times worse at driving than their pale-faced counterparts.
MacIntyre, however, believes the DOJ decided early on that it would exploit any incidents of racial profiling to support its argument that targeting people based on race is common practice at Joe Arpaio's MCSO.
"It was a foregone conclusion what [the DOJ] were gonna find, and they ended up finding it," he says. "Since the late 1600s, and apparently up until today, I think if people have an intention to go on a witch hunt; they always come up with some witches, and that's what this is."
It should also be noted that when asked directly whether he can definitively say racial profiling doesn't happen at the MCSO, Arpaio refused to answer the question -- three times.
The sheriff also responded to Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano's decision to yank the MCSO's 287(g) authority, which allowed the Sheriff's Office to use Immigration and Customs Enforcement resources to identify illegal immigrants brought into its jails.
"The people should be outraged because those people who we've held in our jails are gonna walk out of the jail and be on the streets," the sheriff says. "No, we're not gonna be able to do what we have done where we have investigated everyone coming into our jail."
Well...there's a reason for that.
Another specific violation the DOJ's report outlines is that guards often pressure Latino inmates -- many of whom don't speak English -- to sign voluntary-deportation forms without language assistance. By signing the form, the inmate agrees to be sent back to his or her native country, even if the detainee isn't legally required to leave the United States.
Arpaio says he plans to cooperate with the DOJ, but isn't afraid to take the feds to court if they're not satisfied with any changes he makes in how he enforces the law.
"We're gonna cooperate -- do the best we can," he says. "If [the DOJ's] not happy, I guess they can carry out their threat and go to federal court. And I'll be glad to see them in court -- that's when you can get all the facts out."
Arpaio goes on to say he plans to "continue to enforce all the laws," the DOJ's report be damned.
He even implied that he plans to hold another of his infamous illegal immigrant roundups -- the source of many of the problems outlined in the DOJ's report -- at some point in coming weeks.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.