Judge Orders Arpaio To Distribute Statement Correcting Misinformation

By Jude Joffe-Block
Published: Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 11:21pm
Updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 1:09pm
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Update 11:49 a.m.: U.S. District Judge Murray Snow filed an order on Thursday morning requiring Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio to immediately distribute a statement to MCSO personnel that summarizes the judge's findings in the racial profiling suit against the agency.

The statement is intended to correct misinformation about the order spread by top MCSO brass about the order to officers.

Snow is ordering Arpaio to use the version of the statement that lawyers on both sides negotiated and submitted to the court last week, with only minor edits. Snow denied Arpaio's Tuesday request to amend the statement.

"Those alterations came after the deadline for submitting a ready-to-sign statement, were not submitted to the Plaintiff for approval, are not acceptable to the Plaintiff class, and are unacceptable to this Court," Snow wrote.

Snow said that Arpaio need not sign the statement, but he must distribute it "immediately" to his staff.

According to Snow's order, all MCSO personnel must sign a form stating they have read the order and file that with the court-appointed monitor in the case within two weeks.

Snow has also mandated the agency retrain officers, but first the agency must submit proposed curriculum to the court-appointed monitor for approval. His order makes clear why he is requiring officers to read this statement within the next two weeks, rather than in a future training.

"The misinformation, misunderstanding, and confusion caused by the inaccurate statements and inappropriate training that has occurred throughout the MCSO cannot wait until such future training or briefing may be approved and implemented to be corrected," Snow wrote. "They require immediate attention."

Original story: Attorneys representing the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in a racial profiling lawsuit are trying to make changes to a court-ordered summary of the judge’s finding in the case.

After Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and a senior official were caught mischaracterizing U.S. District Judge Murray Snow's order in front of officers, Snow required attorneys on both sides to craft a summary of his order.

Attorneys turned in a draft last week that the Sheriff said he’d sign. But now the Sheriff’s office wants to amend the statement.

The statement, which is a little more than eight pages, said that Snow found the Sheriff’s office violated the constitution’s Fourth and 14th Amendments by targeting Latino drivers for traffic stops and improperly detaining them.

It also corrected comments top brass at the Sheriff’s office made about the court’s findings in front of deputies, like when Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan incorrectly said the judge only found a couple of officers used race inappropriately.

The statement also said that MCSO is appealing the court’s order as it relates to traffic patrols, but not “the Court’s findings that MCSO violated the constitutional rights of Latinos during saturation patrols.”

The statement, once approved by Snow, was supposed to be distributed to MCSO personnel.

But in a filing to the court on Tuesday, lawyers for the Sheriff’s office claimed some media are covering that statement incorrectly. The brief cited four news stories, including a Channel 12 report.

“The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is acknowledging this afternoon that it did in fact use racial profiling tactics during neighborhood patrols,” said the anchor in that TV story.

Attorney Tom Liddy, who represents the Sheriff’s office, says it’s not fair to construe the summary of the order as an admission by the Sheriff of wrongdoing.

Liddy said the fact that some media characterized it that way shows the statement needs to be amended.

“The statement was insufficiently clear in communicating its important message,” Liddy said.

He said the proposed changes explain the Sheriff does not agree with the court’s finding that MCSO had a policy of using race or ethnicity in law enforcement decisions.

“He understands that the court found it, and that the court’s ruling is the law of the land, but the Sheriff thinks the court got it wrong," Liddy said.

Jack MacIntyre, a deputy chief at the Sheriff’s office, went even further in an interview with KJZZ.

“There is no equivocation here,” MacIntyre said. “Despite the fact of reports in the media, there is no court finding that the Sheriff’s office racially profiled.”

Could MacIntyre’s comment be seen as another mischaracterization of the judge's finding?

Snow did say in a recent hearing that he’s avoided using the exact term “racial profiling.”

But according to a court transcript, Snow also said in that same hearing that, “... the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office has used race — has illegitimately used race as a factor, and to the extent that constitutes racial profiling, that’s what it is, and that’s what I found...”

Specifically, the changes Arpaio wants to make to the negotiated statement include adding the following paragraph, with this emphasis:

The Sheriff acknowledges that the foregoing holdings and Findings of Fact were made by the Court; the Sheriff, however, respectfully disagrees with those findings and conclusions. Specifically, the Sheriff respectfully maintains that neither he nor the MCSO ever had a policy or practice to use race or ethnicity in making any law enforcement decision. In addition, at the hearing on March 24, 2014, from which this Statement arises, the Court stated: “...I am not saying that any particular individual in the MCSO was racist,...”

The proposed changes also modifies the section about the Sheriff’s appeal by adding: “the Sheriff’s decision not to appeal some of the Court’s Findings is based solely on legal strategy and his decision not to appeal on such issues should never be construed as the Sheriff’s agreement with the Court’s Findings on those issues.”

For their part, the plaintiffs in the case have asked the judge to order the Sheriff’s office to distribute the original negotiated statement to all MCSO personnel immediately.

Updated 4/17/2014 at 1:09 p.m.

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