Reverend Warren Stewart, Phoenix City Councilman Michael Johnson, and nearly 2 dozen Black community leaders, along with leaders from The National Urban League and the NAACP stood on the steps of the US Courthouse yesterday to call for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s resignation. The outcry came nearly 2 weeks after the US Department of Justice released a statement following a 3 and a half year Civil Rights investigation on the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. While the media is semi-congratulatory I’m left wondering why the NAACP has waited this long to take a definitive stance???
As a Native Arizonan, I have participated in a number of immigrant rights and civil rights events. I have only seen the NAACP at 1 event ever! Present at the US Courthouse calling for Sheriff Joe’s resignation was longtime Joe Arpaio supporter and President of Phoenix NAACP, Oscar Tillman. When asked about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Tillman seemed to be giving lukewarm responses to the media and even said that he considers Joe Arpaio to be a friend. Is this really a leader of one of the largest and historically most respected civil rights organizations in the US?!!
Since June of 2008 the US Justice Dept has conducted an exhaustive investigation on Civil Rights violations at the hands of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. They released a statement on Dec 15, 2011 stating the they have “reasonable cause to believe that MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of violating the Constitution and laws of the United States in 3 areas.”
“1. We found that MCSO engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing; specifically, MCSO engages in racial profiling of Latinos, and unlawfully stops, detains and arrests Latinos.”
“… 2. We found that MCSO unlawfully retaliates against people who criticize its policies and practices.
“3. We found reasonable cause to believe that MCSO operates its jails in a manner that discriminates against Latino inmates that are limited English proficient.”
Additionally, the report states, “…our expert found that Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers.” The Dept of Justice says that the investigation is ongoing as it also found other areas of “serious concern.”
1. use of force. We uncovered a number of troubling incidents involving use of excessive force, and we will continue to look carefully at this issue.
2. failure to provide adequate policing services in Latino communities; and
3. failure to adequately investigate allegations of sexual assaults.
The statement from the Department of Justice concluded that,