The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to work with the Department of Justice to improve the office in the wake of an alleged pattern of discrimination against Latinos – a stark contrast to the icy exchanges between the two offices just a few days earlier.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio released a brief statement last night saying the Justice Department and his office in Arizona are “both committed to avoiding unnecessary and expensive litigation.”
This is a change of tone from just last week when Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General Roy Austin wrote Arpaio’s lawyer that the sheriff’s unwillingness to cooperate in resolving the discrimination issues “makes litigation inevitable in the very near term.”
Monday, department officials met with representatives of the sheriff’s office to discuss how to move forward after the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division released a scathing report, revealing “grave misconduct” by the sheriff’s office. As part of its investigation, the Justice Department took the unprecedented step in September 2010 by filing suit to force the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office to turn over documents.
The report, which culminates a three-year investigation by the Justice Department, alleges that the sheriff’s office participated in racial profiling of Latinos, unlawful retaliation and discriminatory prison practices. After the report was released, Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division, continued to say Sheriff Joe and his office were “stonewalling” the federal investigation. Arpaio, in interviews with national news media, said the report was just a re-election ruse orchestrated by President Barack Obama’s Justice Department to curry favor among Latino voters.
Yesterday’s statement says the office hopes to create “sustainable reforms and positive results for all citizens of Maricopa County.” Any and all discussions and resolutions to the alleged discrimination will be completed by April 14, according to the statement.