Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office has announced the hiring of a new "community liaison" oficer, one of many reforms required by federal Judge G. Murray Snow's permanent injunction, issued October 2 in the ACLU's big racial-profiling lawsuit, Melendres v. Arpaio.
Deputy Hector Martinez is bilingual and a 10-year veteran of the department, the MCSO's website states. He is now assigned "to the Sheriff's new Court Compliance/Implementation Division."
"His duties are to respond to and communicate community concerns and suggestions directly to the Sheriff," reads the online notice. It adds that Martinez is "eager to respond to the concerns of the community" and can be reached via phone during business hours.
The notice omits Martinez's previous assignment with the MCSO: arresting undocumented Latinos (among others) caught in the very "sweeps" that Judge Snow addressed in May, when he found the MCSO guilty of prejudiced policing toward Hispanics and ordered an end to its racial profiling.
Indeed, it didn't take long for me to locate several photos of Martinez in an Arizona Republic slideshow of what looks to be a relatively early sweep.
The undated images show Martinez questioning a driver and taking two men into custody after they "admitted to being in the U.S. illegally from Mexico."
MCSO public relations folks confirmed to me that this was, in fact, the same Martinez and that his new assignment was made official on December 23.
A couple of other queries were fielded by MCSO spokesman Joaquin Enriquez.
His response to my questions is quoted below:
If I may answer these questions for you, I had the opportunity to sit on the selection panel for the community liaison. According to the court order there were two requirements which needed to be met for this position. The person chosen must be a sworn Deputy Sheriff and he or she needed to be a fluent Spanish speaker. These requirements posed a great challenge considering we do not have an overwhelming number of Deputies who meet both requirements.
The position announcement was published to all sheriffs' Office employees and we had a total of 6 applicant's summit interest, Deputy Hector Martinez being one of the six. All six candidates were evaluated and Hector surpassed every one of them in the areas we deemed important for the position of community liaison.
Deputy Martinez has been with the Human Smuggling Unit /Criminal Employment Unit for about six years. Deputy Martinez explained the challenges of growing up in a border town and was a witness to his own people being victimized by smugglers and coyotes. This sparked in interest in trying to help, when he joined HSU/CEU. Deputy Martinez is a fluent Spanish speaker but most important knows the culture and knows the needs of the Hispanic community.
Deputy Martinez has had several different assignments with the Sheriff's Office to include working patrol in the Town of Guadalupe and in the Town of Queen Creek. These assignments have made him aware of the concerns of the Hispanic community which he now will have a great impact in changing.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office believes Deputy Hector Martinez is the best candidate and his participation in past crime suppression operations will not interfere but on the contrary makes him a better community liaison. His past experiences will allow him to make sound decisions and he will be able to interact with the community on a personal level, when dealing with these issues.
As you can imagine, other stakeholders in Melendres do not share Enriquez's view of his colleague's "past experiences" with the now-defunct Human Smuggling Unit, and the still-active Criminal Employment Unit, which is involved in Arpaio's worksite raids, collaring undocumented Latinos for working without authorization..
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Count Phoenix immigrant-rights activist Lydia Guzman as one of those in the camp of the outraged.
"Arpaio has no respect for us or for the court," she fumed when I told her about Martinez's recent past. "This appointment is evidence of that."
She added, "This is yet another way he is thumbing his nose at the court's order and Judge Snow."