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Judge orders monitor to keep Arizona sheriff from racial profiling

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in a January 2013 photo. Laura Segall / Laura Segall / Reuters file
PHOENIX - A U.S. federal judge on Wednesday ordered a monitor be appointed to oversee the work of hard-line Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio to ensure that his officers no longer use racial profiling, especially of Latinos, when cracking down on illegal immigration. <p> U.S. District Judge Murray Snow had in May ordered the Maricopa County sheriff to stop using race as a factor in law enforcement decisions, in response to a lawsuit brought by Hispanic drivers that tested whether police could target illegal immigrants without profiling U.S. citizens and legal residents of Hispanic origin. </p><p> On Wednesday, the same judge ordered parties in the case to agree on the selection of a monitor within 60 days to oversee the work of the 81-year-old lawman, who styles himself as "America's toughest sheriff." </p><p> Arpaio, who was elected to a sixth term as sheriff last year, has helped make Arizona a touchstone in a bitter national debate over illegal immigration. The sheriff, who is facing a lawsuit and investigation from the U.S. Justice Department accusing him of civil rights abuses, vehemently denies that he or his officers profile Latinos. </p><p> Under a portion of a controversial Arizona immigration law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, police in the state may ask people they stop about their immigration status.</p>
<strong>Monitor to review operations</strong> <p> The monitor's duties are to include reviewing the sheriff office's policies and procedures, as well as making sure that its operations are carried out in a "race-neutral fashion," the ruling said. </p> <p> The judge also ordered audio and video recording of all traffic stops, increased training of sheriff's office employees and the implementation of comprehensive record keeping. </p> <p> The ruling requires the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, or MCSO, to create a community advisory border to bolster its public outreach efforts, and mandates that deputies must tell dispatchers the reason for any traffic stops before approaching a vehicle. </p> <p> "In conducting its activities, MCSO shall ensure that members of the public receive equal protection of the law, without discriminating based on actual or perceived race or ethnicity, and in a manner that promotes public confidence," Snow wrote in his ruling. </p> <p> Arpaio has been a lightning rod for controversy with his get-tough stance on illegal immigration in Arizona, which borders Mexico, and an investigation into the validity of President Barack Obama's U.S. birth certificate. </p> <p> In a statement, Arpaio said he was discussing the court order with his attorneys, who had identified "areas that are ripe for appeal." </p> <p> "To be clear, the appointed monitor will have no veto authority over my duties or operations. As the constitutionally elected sheriff of Maricopa County, I serve the people and I will continue to perform my duties and enforce all laws." </p> <p> <strong>'Important victory' for Latinos</strong> </p> <p> Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project and the plaintiffs' counsel, called the order "an important victory" for Latinos. </p> <p> "It means the sheriff's office needs to stop balking and start complying with the Constitution," Wang said. </p> <p> Nancy Ramirez, counsel for the Mexican American Legal and Educational Defense Fund (MALDEF), said the ruling would bring "accountability" to the sheriff's office. </p> <p> "The Latino community has waited a long time for the court-mandated reforms that will provide accountability and transparency .... and prevent the abuse of authority that has been so prevalent," Ramirez said in a statement. </p> <p> MALDEF said rights groups would continue the legal fight if Arpaio appeals, and would closely monitor the office's activities as the judge's order goes into effect. </p> <p> Arizona has long been a cauldron of controversy over immigration issues. Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed a 2010 crackdown on illegal immigration that was subsequently challenged by the federal government and partly struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. </p> <p> A landmark immigration overhaul passed by the Democratic-led U.S. Senate in June seeks to tighten security on the U.S. border and a path to citizenship for millions of unauthorized immigrants living in the shadows, although it faces scant chance of passage in its current form in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. </p>