A federal judge overseeing the racial-profiling case against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office blasted officials Tuesday for what has been deemed an inadequate internal investigation into a former deputy’s misconduct and allegations that his unit was engaged in theft.
Judge G. Murray Snow also reserved criticism for Sheriff Joe Arpaio following a public statement in which the sheriff indicated he would again engage in unconstitutional practices, and the judge ordered Arpaio to undergo the same training required of his deputies as a result of the case.
Last year, Snow found that the agency had discriminated against Latinos during its patrol operations and later ordered sweeping reforms to prevent future behavior. Reforms included bias-free training for deputies, in-vehicle recording devices, increased data collection and a court-appointed monitor to ensure the agency lived by his orders.
The internal reforms expanded this spring following revelations that now-deceased former deputy Ramon “Charley” Armendariz had been stashing drugs, identification cards, license plates and torn-up citations in his home, signaling what appeared to be a shake-down operation that stretched for years.
Armendariz also secretly recorded thousands of his own traffic stops, documenting his own misconduct.
He had been engaged in a series of standoffs with law enforcement in the days leading to his death in May. Officials say Armendariz had hanged himself and reportedly left a 35-minute “goodbye” video.
The Armendariz fiasco soon came under the purview of the federal judge as the tapes indicated that the Sheriff’s Office did not turn over all the traffic-stop data that was required for a recent racial-profiling lawsuit.
Court monitor Robert Warshaw and his team submitted a report last month to Judge G. Murray Snow that described a flawed criminal investigation stemming from Armendariz’s misconduct.
In a report obtained by the Arizona Republic, the monitoring team criticizes the internal investigations into Armendariz and the immigration-enforcement outfit he served on, the Human Smuggling Unit.
The team described a lax inquiry into which deputies had recording devices, said investigators failed to track evidence from Armendariz’s home and overlooked statements suggesting members of the HSU were stealing or misappropriating property.
The Sheriff’s Office has closed its criminal investigation, and Snow said Tuesday that he worried the decision was premature. A former deputy on the HSU alleged that other members of the unit had engaged in “pocketing” evidence.
Sheriff’s officials have said administrative investigations are ongoing.
The monitoring team reviewed 19 videotaped incidents revealing Armendariz often bullied those he pulled over. According to the analysis, Armendariz would:
■“Arrest, handcuff and place persons in the backseat of his police vehicle and then cite and release them for the traffic violation.
■Advise drivers that their speeds were higher than he cited in paperwork.
■Tow the vehicle for an alleged violation of law and then subsequently seize and search the passengers’ pocket books without reason while requesting ID.
■Seize driver licenses and license plates without supervisory follow up to ensure same were properly placed into evidence and property.”
The monitoring team also wrote that “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.”
On Tuesday, Snow said Arpaio is undermining the agency’s progress.
“I think he’s completely undoing what the MCSO is spending a great deal of time in building,” Snow said.
Arpaio recently told the Associated Press that, under current circumstances, he would still have engaged in a controversial immigration-enforcement operation that took place in Guadalupe.
Defense attorney Tim Casey argued that the sheriff’s statements were his First Amendment right and that they had no bearing on the agency’s ability to comply with the judge’s orders.
Casey said the agency has acted in good faith to comply with the reforms.
“We are not interested in technical compliance,” he said. “We understand that this is a new road that we’re traveling down. There will be hiccups.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney Cecillia Wang of the ACLU agreed with this assessment, but said Snow could order Arpaio’s command staff to undergo new training due to his statement. Snow said he would consider it.
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