U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow today appointed veteran cop-watcher Robert Warshaw of the North Carolina-based Warshaw and Associates to serve as independent monitor in the ACLU's big racial-profiling case Melendres v. Arpaio.
Warshaw, a former chief of the Rochester (New York) Police Department and onetime associate director of drug policy in the Clinton administration, beat out five other contenders for the job, including controversial former New York Police Department Commissioner Howard Safir, who was the top pick of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the MCSO.
Warshaw's résumé notes that he currently serves as independent monitor in a number of court orders involving local law enforcement agencies, including the police departments of Detroit, Oakland, and Niagara Falls, New York, among others.
Each side in Melendres submitted three nominees for the position to Snow. Warshaw was one of the three nominated by the ACLU and the plaintiffs in Melendres.
In his new role, Warshaw will serve as Snow's "eyes and ears," reporting back to the judge on the progress that the Sheriff's Office has made in complying with the court's final order in Melendres, which prescribed a laundry list of reforms for the agency so that it ceases its discriminatory treatment of Latinos.
When the plaintiffs and the defendants could not agree on a comprehensive plan to enforce Snow's order, Snow issued an injunction, outlining what Arpaio's agency must do to comply.
Snow ordered new training for all MCSO deputies, regular community meetings, and cameras for all MCSO vehicles, and it asked the parties in Melendres to agree on a monitor to oversee the implementation of these and other requirements.
The parties could not agree on a monitor, so each side gave Snow a list of names to choose from.
The MCSO recently asked for and received from county supervisors, an additional $21.9 million for the costs of implementing Melendres in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
That cost will increase, as the MCSO must be considered "in compliance" of the court's order for three years running before it can be asked to be released from its dictates.
Thursday, Arpaio's office announced that it had sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder blaming the verdict in Melendres on the training MCSO officers received from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement back when ICE was keen to grant limited immigration authority under the federal government's 287(g) program.
The press release said Arpaio was demanding $39 million in reimbursement from the feds. This is pretty amusing on several fronts, as ICE jerked Arpaio's 287(g) street authority in 2009, though Arpaio continued using the same tactics without it.
"Arpaio correctly contends," the release states, "in his letter to Attorney General Holder that it was the training and instruction given to his deputies by ICE officials during a five week long course led by ICE officials on how to enforce immigration laws that provided the basis for which deputies were later accused of racially bias policing."
Which sounds like an admission of guilt to me. Sort of like blaming a gun shop for selling you a gun, after you go out, rob a bank, and get arrested for it. You still robbed the bank, or in this case, used racial profiling, right?
And if Arpaio agrees that he "robbed the bank" (i.e., illegally profiled Latinos), why appeal his "conviction," as he is doing in Melendres, an act that costs the public even more money?
There is a kernel of truth in Arpaio's media stunt, however. With the MCSO's known pattern of human rights abuses, it should never have been given immigration authority under 287(g).
Indeed, the 287(g) program was and is inherently flawed, and the federal government does deserve some of the blame for allowing a bad actor like Arpaio to acquire additional police authority, which he promptly used to discriminate against Latinos.
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But if we want to play the blame game, who put Arpaio in power, kept him in power for 20 years, and applauded him when he did wrong? The majority of Maricopa County voters.
Which is why I recently proposed, tongue firmly in cheek, an Arpaio sin tax for those who voted for Arpaio in the last election.
Sadly, that has about as much chance of happening as the feds giving Arpaio $39 million for his agency's bigoted and illegal behavior.