DOJ investigation claims Sheriff Joe Arpaio engaged in "unconstitutional policing" (immigration, Arizona, Maricopa County)

The Department of Justice's politically-motivated quasi-witchhunt of Maricopa County, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio has concluded with a report claiming that Arpaio engaged in "unconstitutional policing" and unreasonably targeted Latinos.

You can read the report here, and make sure and see my notes below. First, from the New York Times writeup by Marc Lacey (link):

After an investigation that lasted more than three years, the civil rights division of the Justice Department said in a 22-page report that the sheriff’s office has “a pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos” that “reaches the highest levels of the agency.” The department interfered with the inquiry, the government said, prompting a lawsuit that eventually led Sheriff Arpaio and his deputies to cooperate.

“We have peeled the onion to its core,” said Thomas E. Perez, the assistant attorney general for civil rights, noting during a conference call with reporters on Thursday morning that more than 400 inmates, deputies and others had been interviewed as part of the review, including Sheriff Arpaio and his command staff. Mr. Perez said the inquiry, which included jail visits and reviews of thousands of pages of internal documents, raised the question of whether Latinos were receiving “second-class policing services” in Maricopa County.

Mr. Perez said he hoped Sheriff Arpaio would cooperate with the federal government in turning the department around. Should he refuse, Mr. Perez said, the government will file a lawsuit and the department could lose millions of dollars in federal money.

1. While some things in the report are serious, others are not. The serious issues should be looked into, but the trivial matters show just how low the DOJ is willing to stoop.

2. There's no smoking gun in the entire report against Arpaio himself. The most they can come up with are some notes he wrote on letters people had sent him. No, really: that's all, and all those notes are trivial and don't indicate that Arpaio actually agreed with the letter writers. The full letters also aren't provided. Further, in one case the DOJ appears to have taken one of those letters out of context:

Sheriff Arpaio received a letter asking him to do a "round-up" at 29th Street and Greenway in Phoenix. The letter justified the requested police action by asserting that "[i]fyou have dark skin, then you have dark skin. Unfortunately, that is the look of the Mexican illegals who are here illegally." Instead of ignoring the request to focus on "dark -skin[ ned]" people, Sheriff Arpaio, believing that the letter was relevant "intelligence," passed it on to a member of his command staff with a note instructing him to "[h]ave someone handle this." Labeling as "intelligence" a letter explicitly equating skin color with law-breaking and instructing a subordinate to address it are striking examples of how Sheriff Arpaio has promoted a culture of bias in his organization and clearly communicated to his officers that biased policing would not only be tolerated, but encouraged.

While, once again, the DOJ doesn't provide the full letter, the more correct interpretation of that phrase is that the letter writer is saying that just because they have dark skin doesn't mean Arpaio shouldn't conduct a sweep.

Another example is similarly at the level of thinking normally found on sites like ThinkProgress (bolding added):

Sheriff Arpaio also received a letter in May 2008 complaining that police had not stopped day laborers in Mesa "in order to determine whether these day laborers are here under legitimate circumstances" although the writer of the letter "believe[d] that they were in the country illegally." Sheriff Arpaio marked the quoted sections ofthe letter, believing them to be "intelligence," and forwarded the letter to Chief Sands. Sheriff Arpaio later testified that being a day laborer is not a crime. Sheriff Arpaio then received a similar letter later that month stating that Mesa needed "a sweep ... terribly" and accusing specifically Latino members of MCSO and the Mesa Police
Department of negligence in pursuing "illegals." Sheriff Arpaio directed that a thank you letter be written, noted that "I will be going into Mesa," and forwarded the letter to Chief Sands. Chief Sands later testified that he assumed that the letter's author
correlated undocumented persons with "dark-complected people." Despite the bias evident in both letters, MCSO conducted crime suppression operations in Mesa on June 26-27, 2008, and on July 14,2008.

The DOJ is saying that Arpaio shouldn't have conducted those sweeps because the letters might have expressed bias. Believe it or not, the DOJ is saying is that people should be able to control the actions of the police by the letters they write. They provide no evidence that the letters actually prompted Arpaio to do anything, only that there was a correlation. One would assume that, as Sheriff, Arpaio would have good knowledge of the situation in Mesa and wouldn't require someone offering general tips and suggestions.

3. The leader of this quasi-witchhunt is Thomas Perez, head of the DOJ Civil Rights Division. See his name's link for what he's been involved in in the past: that includes promoting drivers licenses for illegal aliens when he was president of the fringe pro-illegal immigration group Casa de Maryland. It's difficult to imagine him putting his ethnocentrism aside to deliver a fair report.

4. The report relies on unnamed experts, including a "leading expert on measuring racial profiling through statistical analysis". There's no way to evaluate whether that expert is ideologically-motivated or not. The DOJ claim "the expert concluded that this case involves the most egregious racial profiling in the United States that he has ever personally seen in the course of his work, observed in litigation, or reviewed in professional literature" means nothing because they haven't named that expert and there's no way to determine whether he or she is credible.

5. The vast majority of those who are outraged at the report will - based on everything I've seen during the past three years - be nearly ineffective at defending Arpaio against those like Perez. It would be fairly easy to undercut what the Obama administration is trying to do on immigration, yet the vast majority of those outraged by it aren't willing and able to do anything about it. See the posts on the tea parties page for an extensive discussion of this issue. To compound that, those in the Tea Parties sphere think they're taking on the other side, when they're in fact having little or no impact. That's why Obama keeps doing more or less what he wants on immigration. While he's not pushing de jure amnesty, he is pushing the de facto variety. And, the reason he isn't pushing de jure amnesty isn't just because of tea party but because he knows it would meet widespread opposition.

6. On the other hand, the majority of those who cheer the report and who don't have a financial or electoral stake in illegal immigration will be in the position of enabling those who are basically crooks. Illegal immigration is a multi-billion dollar "industry", and plenty of people have their hands out: crooked banks (see immigration banks) want to profit from sending illegal aliens' money home, taking their deposits, and giving them loans; crooked businesses want to employ them as an exploitable labor force; the Democratic Party, the far-left, and racial power groups seek even more race-based power; and, corrupt politicians who take donations from those crooked banks and businesses and in exchange look the other way on massive illegal activity.

7. The bottom line here is the bottom line: Arpaio is interfering with attempts by crooked businesses to make money and with corrupt politicians' attempts to obtain race-based power. That's why they spent three years on this and only came up with Arpaio himself writing a few notes on others' letters.

UPDATE: The Department of Homeland Security has also apparently suspended Arpaio's ability to take part in immigration enforcement. Per tweets by Lacey:

* ICE to #Arpaio: immigration authorities will no longer respond to sheriff's deputies' traffic stops, civil infractions or minor offenses.

* "These steps will ensure that ICE detainees are not subject to the violations detailed in the DOJ's report...'' said ICE head John Morton.

Note that, in January 2010, Morton defended Arpaio against claims of racial profiling.