Sheriff Arpaio Pressed For Apology At Community Meeting

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Wednesday, March 11, 2015 - 10:58pm
Updated: Thursday, March 12, 2015 - 12:21am
Audio icon Download mp3 (1.83 MB)

Fewer than 50 people gathered in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday night for the latest community meeting to discuss the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office since a federal judge found the agency racially profiled Latinos. 

Sheriff Joe Arpaio was there, and some in attendance tried asking him for an apology.

The community meetings were one of many changes prescribed by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow after he ruled the sheriff’s office had systematically racially profiled Latino drivers. Snow ordered sweeping changes at the sheriff’s office to prevent future profiling, and put in place an independent monitoring team to oversee the sheriff’s compliance.

The monitoring team is also tasked with hosting the community meetings and has held six before Wednesday's meeting. The very first one was held nine months ago in the auditorium of ASU Preparatory Academy in downtown Phoenix. Some 200 people attended that initial meeting.

Wednesday’s meeting was held in the same location but drew a much thinner crowd. Though this time, the attendees included Arpaio.

“We are making progress,” Arpaio told the audience during brief remarks at the beginning of the meeting.

Turning to the monitor, Chief Robert Warshaw, Arpaio said, “We are abiding by the judges ruling and with the monitor working very closely with your team.”

So far the sheriff’s office has retrained sworn officers, started collecting new traffic stop data and is in the process of getting body cameras.

Some in the audience pressed Arpaio for more.

“Sheriff, you are the head of this agency, and in order to establish that the agency is going to change, we are hoping your leadership can actually set the tone for these deputies,” said Lydia Guzman, a representative of Somos America, which was an organizational plaintiff in the racial profiling suit.

Guzman mentioned the Arpaio has criticized the judge’s ruling. Then she told Arpaio an apology for profiling Latinos was in order.

“I’m offering right now this microphone to you so that you can offer this public apology,” Guzman said.

At that, Arpaio’s lawyer, Michele Iafrate, stood up.

“This is not what this forum is for,” Iafrate said. “And I would like the moderator to please take control of this forum again so people are not addressing directly within Sheriff Arpaio’s space.”