Feds Say “Toughest Sheriff in America” Violated Civil Rights

The U.S. government criticizes Arizona Authority Joe Arpaio for committing a wide range of racially driven justice violations against Latinos.

Posted: 12/16/2011 03:34 PM EST
Joe Arpaio

The man who called himself the toughest sheriff in town is in hot water, again.


The U.S. government Thursday accused Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio of running a department that has committed a wide range of civil rights violations against Latinos, including a pattern of racial profiling and heavy-handed immigration patrols.


A civil rights division report on Arpaio criticized the sheriff and his department for launching “sweeps,” or immigration patrols based on complaints that Latinos were merely gathering near a business without committing crimes. Additionally, Arpaio’s department was found to stop Latinos in traffic stops four to nine times more than non-Latinos, and that Latino drivers were being arrested without good cause.


The department’s expert on measuring racial profiling called the incidences the most egregious case of racial profiling that he has ever seen.


Arpaio has gained his reputation on dressing inmates in pink underwear and jailing them in tents. Republican presidential candidates have competed for his endorsement, as they see him as an official tough on immigration.


The sheriff denies the racial profiling allegation and calls it a politically motivated attack by the Obama administration that will make Arizona unsafe by keeping immigrants on the street.


“Don’t come here and use me as the whipping boy for a national and international problem,” he said at a news conference.


Separately, Arpaio’s office is being investigated by a federal grand jury for criminal abuse-of-power allegations dating back to at least December 2009.


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(Photo: Joshua Lott/Getty Images)