By Ruth Conniff
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Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio is finally being called to task.
The Department of Justice’s lawsuit against “America’s toughest sheriff” alleges that he and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department “intentionally and systematically discriminate against Latinos.”
It says they use “unconstitutional law enforcement actions against Latinos who are frequently stopped, detained and arrested on the basis of race, color or national origin.” It also says they use “discriminatory jail practices against Latino inmates with limited English skills.”
Arpaio has openly mocked the attempts to rein in his department’s out-of-control behavior. And he has become a rallying cry for those seeking to scapegoat Latinos. The support he boasts spreads far beyond the boundaries of Maricopa County. The majority of financial contributions he receives come from out of state, according to The Associated Press.
The Department of Justice accused Arpaio of abusing power. It offered a settlement agreement if the sheriff agreed to institute reforms. Arpaio refused.
As citizens, we cannot afford to allow officials like Arpaio to think they are above reproach for their actions. We cannot allow the kinds of cruelties his department is accused of to go unchecked.
For the residents of Maricopa County — and for Latinos and good-hearted people around the country — the Justice Department lawsuit is a welcome intervention.
Jose Miguel Leyva is a freelance writer and journalist living in El Paso, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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