Judge Finds MCSO In Compliance With Latest Order

May 07, 2014

After a number of rocky court hearings, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office managed on Wednesday to satisfy the judge presiding over the racial profiling case against the agency.

It was up to the Sheriff’s Office to prove to U.S. District Judge Murray Snow that the agency complied with his order to distribute to MCSO personnel a seven-page summary of the judge’s key findings in the case.

Snow issued that order on April 17 after discovering that department leaders had mischaracterized his findings on multiple occasions to deputies, and had downplayed his conclusion that MCSO systematically discriminated against Latino drivers.

Snow had previously warned leaders at the Sheriff’s Office he might take coercive action — such as holding them in contempt, or imposing fines — if they continued to violate his orders.

That means the stakes were high at the Wednesday hearing.

But this time, it appears MCSO followed the court’s instructions. Capt. Larry Farnsworth said almost 3,300 paid staff members — or nearly 98 percent — read either that summary, or the judge’s rulings in their entirety. 

As a result, Snow announced in court that MCSO was in compliance with his order to distribute the summary of his findings to staff.

“It was tough that it came at Easter, but we were able to comply,” said Tom Liddy, who is on MCSO's legal team. “I think the court appreciates the efforts the Sheriff and his staff went through to comply with that order.”

Liddy said the small number of staff who didn’t read the summary were out of the office, mostly due to military or medical leave.

The ACLU of Arizona’s Dan Pochoda, who represents plaintiffs, said the Sheriff’s staff should have familiarized themselves with Snow’s findings long ago.

“It was somewhat shocking to hear in some prior hearings that the top two or three people had not even read the judge’s orders and yet that did not stop them from characterizing them wrongly to other MCSO personnel and to deputies,” Pochoda said.

Snow issued one ruling in May of 2013, and a supplemental order in October.

Since then, Snow determined that department leaders had spread misinformation about those orders. The false statements included that Snow had only found that a handful of deputies had used race inappropriately, and that deputies held Latino drivers 14 seconds longer than other drivers.

Next up in the case, the parties and a court-appointed monitor will negotiate curriculum to train deputies in bias-free policing.