PHOENIX (AP) - A judge presiding over a racial profiling case against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office leveled harsh criticism against the agency Tuesday for not thoroughly investigating allegations that some sheriff’s deputies were involved in thefts.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow also singled out Arpaio for publicly saying he had no regrets about launching the type of immigration patrols that the judge found to have been unconstitutional as part of the profiling case. The judge is concerned Arpaio’s comments are weakening efforts to correct constitutional flaws in the agency’s approach to traffic stops.
“I think he is completely undoing what the MCSO (Arpaio’s office) is spending a great deal of time building,” said Snow, who showed visible frustration with the agency at several points in a court hearing Tuesday. He ordered the sheriff himself to attend the training that his officers must complete as part of the profiling case.
The hearing was called to discuss the agency’s investigations of a former officer suspected of shaking down immigrants and to address Arpaio’s recent unapologetic comments about a 2008 immigration patrol.
Arpaio, who was in Idaho on Tuesday, didn’t attend the hearing. His lawyers and one of Arpaio’s top managers faced sharp questioning from the judge, particularly over the investigation into former Deputy Ramon Charley Armendariz.
Armendariz was arrested in May after investigators found items belonging to others and bags of evidence at his home. Armendariz implicated former colleagues on Arpaio’s immigrant smuggling squad, quit his job and later committed suicide. Armendariz is relevant to the profiling case because he was a witness at the case’s 2012 trial and videos of his traffic stops were discovered after his arrest.
The judge said he had concerns that the only criminal investigation by the sheriff’s office of Armendariz has been closed.
“I think you need to continue to investigate where those items came from,” Snow said.
Robert Warshaw, a court-appointed official who is monitoring the sheriff’s office on behalf of the judge, said another former member of Arpaio’s smuggling squad has alleged that squad members had pocketed items from raids at safe houses.
Warshaw, a former police chief, said his team of police professionals has never seen more unprofessional interviews than those conducted by Arpaio’s employees who are conducting the investigation. Warshaw said the interviews were replete with apologetic treatment of those being interviewed.
More than a year ago, Snow ruled Arpaio’s office had systematically racially profiled Latinos in its regular traffic and immigration patrols. Arpaio denies that his officers have racially profiled people and has appealed the decision. The judge is requiring Arpaio’s office to video-record traffic stops, collect data on traffic stops and conduct additional training to ensure officers aren’t making unconstitutional traffic stops.
Tuesday’s hearing also centered on Arpaio’s recent comments about a 2008 immigration patrol in the town of Guadalupe that were a significant piece of the profiling case.
Asked to comment about an upcoming community meeting in Guadalupe, Arpaio told The Associated Press he had no regrets about the patrol. “With the same circumstances, I’d do it all over again,” Arpaio said.
Snow said the sheriff, as an elected official, is free to make whatever public statements he wishes, but added that Arpaio sets the overall tone for his agency - and questioned whether the sheriff’s comments are undermining efforts to train his deputies.
Tim Casey, an attorney representing Arpaio, said the sheriff’s office is making significant changes ordered by the judge and that the agency was acting in good faith. “Good faith exists in the deed, not the spoken word,” Casey said, arguing there was no cause and effect as a result of Arpaio’s comments.
Cecillia Wang, a lawyer who pressed the profiling case against the sheriff’s office, said the sheriff wasn’t merely expressing disagreement with the judge - he was saying he would do his immigration patrols all over again.
Snow said he was willing to take such comments by Arpaio into account when deciding whether the sheriff’s office has complied with the judge’s efforts to fix the constitutional problems.
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