Judge delays ruling in Ariz. racial profiling case

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio speaks with the media in Phoenix on Jan. 9, 2013 AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File

PHOENIX A federal judge delayed a ruling in the racial profiling case against Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office Friday as both sides remain at odds over key remedies to ensure the agency adheres to constitutional requirements.

U.S. District Judge Murray Snow found in May that , marking the first finding by a court that the agency covering Arizona's most populous county engages in racial profiling.

Snow delayed a ruling in the case in June after parties indicated they wanted more time to reach an agreement, though it was clear during Friday's hearing that neither side would cave to the other's demands.

"I presume that you're now leaving it up to me to take your outline and create an order, and that's what I intend to do," Snow told attorneys.

The judge gave the lawyers until Sept. 18 to file additional briefs in the case and said he would issue a final order soon thereafter.

One key proposal that attorneys for the Sheriff's Office vehemently objected to is for deputies to note to dispatchers why they have stopped a vehicle before they make contact with the driver.

Given that the case arose after a small group of Latinos sued the agency for violating their constitutional rights, saying they were detained simply because of their race, the plaintiffs' attorneys said such a requirement is crucial to discern the motivation of the stop.

Maricopa County Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan told the judge it would be burdensome and risky since "traffic stops are one of the most dangerous things that deputies do."

"It takes less than a second to say, `I'm pulling this car over because it was speeding,"' said Cecillia Wang, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who is representing the plaintiffs, adding that such a requirement is needed "given the record ... of racial profiling of Latinos in this county."

Another key point of contention is the appointment of a monitor to oversee the agency's adherence to the judge's eventual order.

Arpaio says allowing a monitor means every policy decision would have to be cleared through the observer and would nullify his authority.

"Obviously, my client opposes the appointment of any monitor," Tim Casey, one of Arpaio's lawyers, told the judge.

Casey said in addition to usurping the sheriff's authority, the agency is concerned about how much power the monitor would have, and how privy the observer would be to sensitive information, including ongoing investigations and search warrants.

"Basically, the concern is one of safety," Casey said. "The more people who know, the greater the risk of being burned."

Despite the objections, Snow indicated that a monitor would be appointed and would have significant authority.

"It will be the monitor's obligation to determine when the MCSO is in full compliance," the judge said.

Arpaio's office also opposes the plaintiffs' proposal to create an advisory board aimed at improving the department's relationship with the Latino community.

Casey argued the Sheriff's Office already has a community outreach liaison, and that "the sheriff recognizes there needs to be some improvement."

"There's a positive effect if my client goes to the Latino community voluntarily," he said, adding that if it were court-ordered and coupled with an advisory board, it would appear as if the sheriff was being forced to build better relations, "throwing fuel on the fire."

ACLU attorney Dan Pochoda snapped back that the stance "reflects the sheriff's anti-Latino attitude."

Snow's May ruling doesn't altogether bar Arpaio, 81, from enforcing the state's immigration laws, but it does impose a long list of restrictions on the sheriff's patrols, some of which focused heavily on Latino areas in the county. They include prohibitions on using race as a factor in deciding whether to stop a vehicle with a Latino occupant and on detaining Latino passengers only on the suspicion that they're in the country illegally.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit last year that also alleges racial profiling in Arpaio's immigration patrols. Its suit, however, claims broader civil rights violations, such as allegations that Arpaio's office retaliates against its critics and punishes Latino jail inmates with limited English skills for speaking Spanish. Arpaio has denied the claims.

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