Sheriff Joe Arpaio Could Face Jail Time, Federal Judge Limits His ‘Powers’

Jamie Ross | Courthouse News Service

PHOENIX (CN) — A federal judge Wednesday removed some of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s authority over his Internal Affairs department, finding “America’s Toughest Sheriff” minimized punishments of his command staff or failed to discipline them at all for civil rights violations.

U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow’s ruling comes two months after Snow found the Maricopa County sheriff and three of his aides in contempt of court for disobeying orders in a longstanding racial-profiling class action.

Arpaio and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan also face potential criminal contempt charges.

In 2007, a class action filed against Arpaio and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) claimed deputies racially profiled Latinos during traffic stops and unlawfully detained them during crime-suppression sweeps.

Judge Snow barred deputies from profiling in 2011, and in 2013 ordered Arpaio and his office to take steps to prevent racial profiling. But Arpaio’s officers continued to use profiling in its sweeps and traffic stops, leading to a 21-day contempt hearing.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, who represent the class, asked Snow in June to remove Arpaio and his command staff from overseeing the Internal Affairs division to prevent them from concealing wrongdoing.

Arpaio and Sheridan “have openly defied the court’s authority in front of subordinates, repeatedly violated the court’s discovery orders, deliberately misled the court appointed monitor, and willfully subverted MCSO’s internal affairs system to evade being held responsible for their misconduct,” the ACLU wrote in a memo.

Snow agreed with the ACLU Wednesday, finding that Arpaio and his aides have “manipulated the Internal Affairs process at the MCSO to ensure that many employees — including Chief Deputy Sheridan — were disciplined in a relatively lenient manner or not at all for violating the rights of the plaintiff class.”

To combat these failures, Snow ordered that an independent Internal Affairs investigator and an independent disciplinary authority “make and review disciplinary decisions for all employees pertaining to the misconduct.”

Snow’s order also requires the sheriff’s office to review all of its policies and produce new or revised procedures for performing misconduct investigations.

Among the changes, “No employee who was involved in an incident shall be involved in or review a misconduct investigation arising out of the incident,” Snow wrote.

Any employee involved in a business or personal relationship with a witness in a misconduct investigation may not participate in the investigation, the order states.

Within three months of completing these revised procedures, the sheriff’s office must provide members of its Internal Affairs division with 40 hours of training on how to conduct investigations. The sheriff also must train all deputies about the new policies, Snow ordered.


A hearing on Friday will address potential criminal contempt charges Snow might refer against Arpaio or Sheridan. Those charges could include fines and jail time.

A sheriff’s office representative could not be reached for comment before press time. Arpaio, 84, is attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland as a delegate from Arizona.

Published by Courthouse News Service.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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