Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio's department in yet more trouble
The bad news just keeps coming for Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his Phoenix-area department. Last week, the Maricopa County force was harshly criticized in a Justice Department report that accused deputies of racial profiling, harassing Spanish-speaking inmates and otherwise treating "Latinos as if they are all undocumented."
Arpaio responded to those allegations by calling them isolated incidents, as opposed to evidence of systemic problems.
But this week brought even more negative headlines for the self-proclaimed toughest sheriff in America:
-- Monday: Miriam Mendiola-Martinez, who was jailed in Maricopa County in 2009, filed a lawsuit alleging that she was shackled on and off during her pregnancy -- including immediately after her son’s C-section birth, according to the Phoenix New Times. Shackling pregnant women runs afoul of Arizona and federal corrections policies, the paper said.
-- Tuesday: The family of Maricopa County inmate Ernest Atencio took him off life support, the Associated Press reported. Atencio, who was found unresponsive after fighting with sheriff’s deputies, had been booked on an assault charge earlier this month. His family is reportedly considering filing a lawsuit.
-- Wednesday: Maricopa County detention officers turned in their federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement credentials in a staged-for-the-media event, the Arizona Republic reported. The Department of Homeland Security, in response to the Justice Department report, had stripped them of their authority to detain people on immigration charges.
-- Thursday: A judge is scheduled to hear arguments in a lawsuit that accuses the sheriff’s department of racial profiling during its high-profile “sweeps,” the AP said. Since January 2008, undocumented immigrants accounted for 57% of the 1,500 people arrested in the sweeps, the sheriff’s office said.
-- Ashley Powers in Las Vegas
Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, left, orders approximately 200 convicted illegal immigrants handcuffed together and moved in 2009. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press