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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reforms To Ariz. Sheriff’s Office Come With A Price

In Maricopa County, an outside monitor is now in place to ensure that Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his deputies comply with a court order to prevent racial profiling.

It’s one of many reforms coming to one of the most well-known departments in the country, and those changes are starting to add up in costs.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Jude Joffe-Block of KJZZ reports.

Reporter

Transcript

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

It's HERE AND NOW.

And Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has just a few more days to decide whether to sign the right to refuse service bill. That is the law the state legislature passed last week to protect business owners from lawsuits if, based on religious beliefs, they refuse service to people. Brewer is being urged to veto the bill - critics are calling it anti-gay - in part because they say it would hurt business investment in the state.

Brewer has been in a similar situation before when the state enacted SB1070. People called that the show me your papers law. That law is supported by the man they call America's toughest sheriff, Joe Arpaio, who has been accused of racial profiling and in fact now has outside monitors watching him and his deputies. That is not cheap. From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, KJZZ's Jude Joffe-Block reports from Phoenix.

JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK, BYLINE: Just a few years ago, it was common for Sheriff Joe Arpaio to conduct big crime sweeps to crack down on illegal immigration. This is Arpaio at one such operation four years ago

SHERIFF JOE ARPAIO: We're blitzing the whole county with 400 deputy sheriffs and volunteer posse regardless of all the critics that don't like what I do.

JOFFE-BLOCK: But now those critics have prevailed. They sued and a federal judge found Arpaio's exuberant immigration enforcement discriminated against Latino drivers. The judge ordered sweeping changes at the department. Recently, Arpaio told reporters he would cooperate with the judge's order and the newly appointed outside monitor. But in the meantime, he's appealing.

ARPAIO: I am confident that my deputies do not racial profile, and I will continue to say that.

JOFFE-BLOCK: The sheriff's office isn't letting reporters come on ride-alongs these days, but Sergeant Christopher Dowell agreed to talk with me in his department-issued SUV about how the court order will change the way the sheriff's office operates.

SERGEANT CHRISTOPHER DOWELL: The supplemental order is 59 pages. I've read the supplemental order 20 times.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Dowell is part of a small team tasked with the complicated job of making sure the agency complies with the judge's order. So what's on those 59 pages? For starters, how deputies make traffic stops is changing.

DOWELL: We do not inquire about their immigration status.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Deputies must go through new training to prevent racial profiling. And...

DOWELL: Every traffic stop will be documented. It will be documented hopefully digitally, if we can get the technology to move along quickly.

JOFFE-BLOCK: The first round of mandatory changes will take effect at the end of March, when deputies will have to record the length and reason for making a traffic stop, as well as their impression of the driver's race or ethnicity. Eventually, patrol cars like the one we're in now will be outfitted with video cameras. And the department will put a new system in place to monitor deputy discipline and performance. Actually, Dowell is excited about that last bit.

DOWELL: Those are things we wanted to move into, we just didn't have the money for. So now we are going to be able to move into it. This order is going to allow us to move forward a lot quicker than we would have been able to do.

JOFFE-BLOCK: But it's going to cost a bundle: $22 million in the first year and a half plus an annual 10 million for the next five years. Add to that as much as nine million in attorney's fees. University of Pittsburgh Law School's David Harris has studied court-ordered changes at police departments. He says though reforms are expensive up front, they might prevent more costly lawsuits down the line. Harris says the order has the potential to make one of the country's most controversial law enforcement agencies first rate.

DAVID HARRIS: If the leadership of the department and the municipalities it serves have invested themselves in it, rather than resisting it, what you will have is a department that will be remade.

JOFFE-BLOCK: County taxpayers will foot the bill for this department makeover. But that hasn't stopped a debate about who should pay. Last month, Sheriff Arpaio wrote to the U.S. attorney general, demanding the Feds pick up the tab. He says that's only fair because federal agents taught his deputies the very practices that prompted the court's intervention. Meanwhile, Arpaio's critics say the high cost of cleaning up the sheriff's office should be a wakeup call to voters.

RANDY PARRAZ: This is what it costs to have a sheriff that is this detached, this incompetent, someone who's this incapable of really adopting policies that are within the law.

JOFFE-BLOCK: Randy Parraz ran an unsuccessful campaign to recall Arpaio after his 2012 re-election. And he actually has his own opinion of where the money should come from: Arpaio's campaign war chest.

PARRAZ: He was able to raise money on his practices of going after Latinos and immigrants. He raised money from lots of racists around the country. We should be able to use that money to pay down this debt.

JOFFE-BLOCK: In fact, last month, Arpaio announced his campaign got a $3.5 million bump in 2013, just a year after he won re-election. That's a new record. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Jude Joffe-Block in Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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