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U.S. accuses Arizona's Joe Arpaio of misconduct against Latinos

December 15, 2011 | 10:19 am

Joe Arpaio

The Justice Department accused Arizona's Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, a nationally known law enforcement official deeply opposed to illegal immigration, of sponsoring a “pattern of misconduct” that permitted unlawful arrests and excessive force against Latinos and which resulted in the failure to investigate sexual assaults and protect Latino residents against attacks along the Southwest border.

The preliminary findings by the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division come as Arpaio has been hinting of plans to seek national political office, and is vigorously supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s bid for the presidency.

Assistant Atty. Gen. Thomas E. Perez said Arpaio has created a “systematic disregard for basic constitutional protections” and put up a “wall of distrust between the sheriff’s office and large segments of the community.”

Arpaio's leadership, Perez added, “dramatically compromises the ability to protect and serve the people” in one of the largest metropolitan areas along the border.

Arpaio, who made headlines in the past for chaining inmates and housing them in harsh desert climates, is now expected to formally respond to the findings. If the Justice Department is unhappy with his response, federal prosecutors said they will seek a federal court order to force him to make changes.

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-- Richard Serrano in Washington

Photo: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a news conference earlier this month. Credit: Ross D. Franklin / Associated Press

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