An angry Judge G. Murray Snow took Arizona’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio to the woodshed on Tuesday for undermining the changes he ordered the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) to make. As a result, the judge issued another order: Arpaio has to take himself and his big mouth to the same anti-bias training that was already required for his deputies.
What got the judge so worked up — this time — was the sheriff’s recent statements to the Associated Press that he would be willing to repeat a 2008 immigration sweep even though it has been deemed illegal. Snow found the traffic stops, conducted in the small town of Guadalupe, to constitute unconstitutional racial-profiling. The most-hated-sheriff-in-America doesn’t much care about the U.S. Constitution, or any power other than his own. He told the AP:
With the same circumstances, I’d do it all over again.
The federal case against Arpaio has become more and more complicated over time. As part of his original decision, in May 2013, Judge Snow instituted reforms designed to prevent further racial profiling and to force the MCSO into compliance. Most significantly, he appointed a monitor to keep tabs on the department. He also required bias-free training for deputies, cameras in patrol cars and better data collection. Due to recent developments, the camera requirement was modified so that officers now have to wear body cameras.
The hearing on Tuesday was scheduled in order to address recent developments. Former Detective Ramon Charley Armendariz, a member of Arpaio’s Human Smuggling Unit (HSU), was the subject of a just-completed internal investigation by the sheriff’s office. In April, Armendariz was arrested because of evidence found in his home that indicated he shook down and robbed undocumented immigrants that he pulled over in traffic stops. Multiple official evidence bags, many containing drugs, were found in the detective’s garage. Some of the evidence seemed to point to collusion among deputies to engage in illegal shakedowns and seizures.
Arpaio has already concluded his internal investigation into the misconduct, just six months after it was discovered. The court-appointed monitor, Robert Warshaw, and his team submitted a report to Judge Snow indicating that the MCSO investigation was incomplete. The sheriff’s investigators failed to track evidence found in Armendariz’s possession to see whether it led to other officers who may have been involved in the scheme.
The monitoring team also expressed concerns about the process that allowed Armendariz, who committed suicide in May, to be hired by the MCSO in the first place. They wrote:
The fact that Mr. Armendariz was able to pass the MCSO pre-employment background is worrisome, but even more concerning is the fact that, even after a long list of complaints and numerous red flags were raised by supervisors, Mr. Armendariz remained in the Human Smuggling Unit.
The judge wants the investigation reopened. After ordering the sheriff, who wasn’t present in court, to go to anti-bias training, he said:
I can’t ignore things he says when they’re directly as provocative as they are … I think he is completely undoing what the MCSO is spending a great deal of time building.
After the hearing, the plaintiffs’ attorney, Cecillia Wang, expressed the hope that Arpaio would be held in contempt for future bad behavior, saying:
He needs to know that there will be consequences for his actions.
It’s all too obvious that Arizona isn’t going to deliver those consequences. The state’s a bastion of conservative libertarianism and, apparently, racism that has a blatant love affair going with the guy. Although Arpaio won his last election by the narrowest margin ever, citizens just keep reelecting him. Too many delight in seeing him poke a stick in the eye of other authorities. Too few realize the consequences of depriving other people of their rights — rights that they, too, may some day need enforced.
That is, if the monster they created can still be controlled.