Joe Arpaio's Sweep Plan Unsealed by Court, No "Exigent Circumstances" Offered

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Tuesday afternoon, U.S. District Court Judge G. Murray Snow unsealed the operations plan for Sheriff Joe Arpaio's "crime suppression" sweep, which took place this weekend in the West Valley.

Significantly, the document, which was filed last Thursday under seal by Arpaio's attorney Tim Casey, does not identify any "exigent circumstances" as mentioned in Snow's final order in the ACLU civil rights case Melendres v. Arpaio.

Snow's permanent injunction, issued on October 2, gave the sheriff's office a 59-page list of detailed requirements, meant to haul Arpaio's office into the era of modern policing, and away from its recent history as a practitioner of biased law enforcement.

Read the MCSO's ops order for its West Valley sweep, unsealed late Tuesday by Judge Snow.

An independent monitor was ordered by Snow to help bring the MCSO to heel. Once that monitor is hired, likely sometime in December, he or she must be given an advance copy of the MCSO's plans for any operation involving more than 10 deputies.

The MCSO also must present the monitor with a "standard template" for such operations plans within 90 days of the issuance of Snow's order.

While the MCSO awaits the appointment of its babysitter, the agency is allowed to perform a "significant operation" (aka, a "sweep"), but only if there are "exigent circumstances," basically an emergency of some sort that threatens life and limb.

The unsealed ops plan does mention the August murder of MCSO detention officer Jorge Vargas in the vicinity of the sweep. However, it also notes that in September the Phoenix Police Department arrested a suspect in that shooting.

"The objective of this enforcement operation," reads the MCSO's lead memo, "is to enforce state criminal and traffic laws to reduce violence, gang activity, and other crime in the area."

Another memo states that the sweep is meant as a response to Vargas' death, and to make the point that lawbreakers "will not be allowed to operate with impunity."

So, where is the exigent circumstance, the life-threatening emergency that must be addressed?

The MCSO's plan of action does not say.

The document does mention the term "exigent circumstances," but in an odd way.

Concerning arrest warrants to be served on juveniles, the doc says the MCSO's Jail Enforcement Division will be doing this earlier in the week as part of the same operation.

"This is due to judicial constraints of serving arrest warrants after 2230 hours without exigent circumstances," reads the doc.

Which seems to suggest that the term "exigent circumstances" does not apply to what happened this past weekend. (And that part of the operation began days before any indication of it was given to Snow.)

Indeed, Stanley Young, the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Melendres, made a similar point prior to the sweep, in a statement of protest to the court, where Young accused the MCSO of "circumventing" the court's order.

The unsealed MCSO doc includes an admonition that "under no circumstances" will people be "arrested, detained or questioned for immigration status" or will sheriff's deputies use "race and ethnicity" in any law enforcement decision.

MCSO policies regarding arrests and the prevention of biased-based policing are offered, as is a list of participating deputies.

There are forms to be filled out, a map of the area to be patrolled indicating crime activity, and a command to comply with a different judge's order, enjoining MCSO deputies from arresting migrants suspected of conspiring to smuggle themselves into the country.

ACLU legal director Dan Pochoda told me that at first blush, the unsealed document "doesn't look adequate."

The plaintiffs have concerns about the lack of notice given and the apparent absence of exigent circumstances. And there are requirements still to be met, such as a mound of data on the stops, which the MCSO must turn over to the plaintiffs within the next 30 days.

"We will very closely assess whether a motion for contempt [of court] is called for," Pochoda stated.

Thing is, I don't see how Snow could view the sweep and this ops plan as anything but a slap in the face.

Hell, Fox 10 News apparently was tipped off by the MCSO to the sweep before the plaintiffs and the court were informed.

(Seems the plaintiffs' attorneys received a copy of the sealed order on Friday, under a protective order from the court not to discuss it with the media.)

And Arpaio has promised more such sweeps before a monitor is appointed.

The sheriff is pushing Snow, trying to find the bright line. Snow should wrap it around the old man's neck, before Arpaio makes a mockery of six years of litigation, a federal civil rights trial, and the court's ruling that Arpaio and his officers are guilty as sin of racial profiling.

Even an old lion in a cage needs to hear the crack of the whip occasionally. And for this, Joe is long overdue.

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