MCSO Working To Remove Institutional Bias

Published: Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 2:16pm
Updated: Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 2:25pm
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Jimmy Jenkins/KJZZ
The Federal Courthouse in Phoenix.

Despite court-ordered training, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is still engaged in biased policing against minorities.

The plaintiffs and defendants in Melendres v. Penzone met in federal court on Wednesday to discuss the latest status of the case.

The Sheriff’s Office has been conducting annual analysis of traffic stop data. The most recent analysis showed that there are certain individual deputies who are still engaged in biased traffic stops against Latinos and African-Americans and that an agencywide bias remains.

In response, MCSO came up with a plan to address the institutional bias. Judge Murray Snow told Sheriff Paul Penzone he was pleased with the progress the department has made.  But Cecillia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union says the plaintiff class wants to see more accountability from Penzone: "Build in some metrics and a timeline so that we know whether the approaches that he is suggesting are working over time,” Wang suggested.

She says the plaintiff class is asking for a few basic steps to be carried out.  "Basically you’ve got to have — number one — the policies in place. Number two is you have to have training on those policies. Number three is that on an ongoing basis, commanders and sergeants are looking at the front line deputies to address the problems and the conduct.” Wang says there are still outliers in the Sheriff's Office that continue to racially profile during traffic stops.

Snow encouraged both sides to agree upon a timetable and performance metrics for removing the institutional bias from the department.

The class-action lawsuit was first filed in 2007. In 2013, MCSO was found to be racially profiling Latinos with traffic stops. Subsequent violations of related court orders led to the civil and criminal contempt charges against former Sheriff Joe Arpaio.


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