Joe Arpaio's "Community Liaison" and the Bigoted MCSO E-mails in Melendres

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Sheriff Joe Arpaio's newly appointed "community liaison" officer Hector Martinez received e-mails during his time with the MCSO's notorious Human Smuggling Unit from other MCSO employees that contained offensive photos and videos demeaning Mexicans and other Latinos.

The e-mails, one of which Martinez forwarded to his home address, speak to the culture of bigotry that was allowed to permeate the Sheriff's Office, as Arpaio transformed his agency in the 2000s into one dedicated to hunting undocumented Hispanics.

Unearthed during the discovery phase of the ACLU's big racial-profiling lawsuit Melendres v. Arpaio, the e-mails were submitted to the court in 2011 by the plaintiffs as evidence of the MCSO's racial and ethnic bias.

Federal Judge G. Murray Snow cited the e-mails in a footnote to his 142-page decision in May of this year, essentially finding the MCSO guilty of prejudiced policing and ordering that the practice cease.

One of those forwarded to several MCSO deputies in 2008, including Martinez, was described as a "rare photo" of a "Mexican Navy SEAL."

It showed a Chihuahua in scuba gear.

Another, which Martinez forwarded in 2005 to his private e-mail (as identified to me by MCSO flack Lisa Allen), was titled "Guadalupe Handgun revision" and contained an .mpg file of a video titled "Hispanic Shooting Range."

An 11-second video of the same title exists online and shows two men walking a car door through a firing range as one yells, "Hey, puto!" and fires off a few rounds from a handgun.

It's worth noting that Martinez was once a deputy in the tiny town of Guadalupe, according to the MCSO.

Guadalupe is largely Mexican-American and Native American. Court records show that Martinez participated in an infamous immigration sweep of the town in 2008.

Asked to comment on the e-mails in relation to Martinez's recent appointment to be a "community liaison, longtime MCSO flack Lisa Allen got back to me with the following tepid response:

"We are pleased to have [Martinez] as our Community Outreach Liaison and look forward to his assistance."

Allen also pointed to a statement sent to me by another member of the MCSO media relations team, Joaquin Enriquez, who defended Martinez over the weekend when I asked about Martinez's work with the Human Smuggling Unit and photos of Martinez on an Arizona Republic slideshow of one of the early MCSO immigration sweeps, arresting undocumented Latinos with a sneer on his face.

Enriquez described Martinez as "a fluent Spanish speaker" who grew up in a border town and knows "the culture [and] . . . the needs of the Hispanic community." He claimed Martinez's experiences with the HSU and in Guadalupe help qualify him for the new post.

Immigrant rights advocate Lydia Guzman disagrees. She remains offended by Martinez's appointment and is dismissive of claims that Martinez will be sympathetic to the Latino community.

"Regardless of where he came from," Guzman told me, "he's been indoctrinated by this whole MCSO mentality of 'chase the brown.' It's evident because of his participation in the sweeps; it's evident in these e-mails. And this is only what we know about."

She continues to believe that Martinez's appointment is yet another example of Arpaio snubbing his nose at Judge Snow and his ruling in Melendres.

Indeed, part of Snow's final injunction in October orders the MCSO to select or hire a bilingual Community Liaison Officer within 90 days of the injunction.

Snow's order outlines the CLO's duties in acting as a contact person for the public, coordinating district community meetings, and attending and coordinating a yet-to-be-formed Community Advisory Board, among other responsibilities.

As CLO, Martinez is supposed to field questions from the community and "communicate concerns" from the public with MCSO leadership and with a court-appointed monitor.

(Snow is currently mulling the submissions of six applicants for the job of monitor, three suggested by the plaintiffs and three suggested by Arpaio. The monitor's appointment could come at any time.)

But why should anyone from the Latino community, especially those who may be undocumented, trust Martinez, an officer who was involved intimately in the very activities that prompted the ACLU lawsuit?

Indeed, in an MCSO e-mail dated November 20, 2007, Sergeant Manny Madrid notes Martinez as being in one of the "takedown vehicles" working a sweep at 36th Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix at that time.

"If he was part of the original sweeps," said Guzman, "I think he's too prejudiced already. I have no faith that he's sincere. He's not sincere at all."

I asked Lisa Allen for an opportunity to discuss these issues with Martinez. So far, she has not responded to the request.

To give you an idea of the extent to which the MCSO has been contaminated by anti-Latino bias, I offer a quote from Snow's decision in Melendres, where he discusses the involvement of HSU Sergeant Brett Palmer in the offensive e-mails sent to Martinez and others.

Snow writes:

The deputies that Sgt. Palmer supervised in the HSU are, apparently the same ones with whom he exchanged e-mails demeaning Mexicans . . . Sgt. Palmer, considering the e-mails a "joke," forwarded them to the deputies he supervised in the HSU...

Although Sgt. Palmer believes he was disciplined for sending the emails, he remained a supervising sergeant in the Human Smuggling Unit . . . A year later, Sgt. Palmer circulated to the HSU a fictional article from the Los Angeles Times purporting to be about immigration which contained baseless statistics regarding the unauthorized population in California.

The MCSO's coddling of Palmer shows that left to its own devices, the agency will not, on its own, reform. The naming of Martinez for the post of community liaison is but one more act of institutional intransigence.

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