PHOENIX — Some of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s deputies in Arizona’s Maricopa County have agreed to go through a round of cultural training. The county approved the arrangement to reduce long-held tensions between the Sheriff’s office and indigenous and Latino residents in the Phoenix suburb of Guadalupe.
Tensions between the Sheriff’s office and the small town of Guadalupe have been brewing for years.
The town’s population is just 6,000 people — too small to have its own police department — so it contracts with the Sheriff’s office.
Back in 2009, Arpaio conducted an operation to crack down on unauthorized immigrants. It coincided with the town’s Easter vigil, which is a mix of Catholic and indigenous traditions.
The sweep sparked outrage from local officials. Mayor Rebecca Jimenez confronted Arpaio and their tense exchange was captured in a PBS documentary.
“If you don't like the way I operate, you go get your own police department,” Arpaio said. “You got 90 days to cancel your contract. 90 days. You want to cancel it, feel free to do it.”
“We’ll look into that,” responds Jimenez. “Thank you.”
But Guadalupe officials did not find another police agency to take over and kept the MCSO contract. Under the new agreement the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors approved Wednesday, the town will come up with a cultural training for deputies.
It will explain the town’s heritage from the Mexico-based Yaqui tribe, including town celebrations.
Also, if town officials feel like certain deputies are not respectful enough, they can request the deputies be reassigned.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox said it’s a good compromise.
“Those two clauses were something Guadalupe fought very hard for,” Wilcox said. “They want to get along with the sheriff, but they also want the sheriff to realize there has to be respect from his MCSO officers.”
Arpaio said he didn’t have a problem agreeing to the new arrangement in Guadalupe, noting that if he didn’t agree the town would likely be left without a police department.
“Any training or education my deputies can get is well accepted,” Arpaio said. “As I say it is somewhat of a unique area and we always can learn.”
Arpaio said there are 11 deputies assigned to Guadalupe and he has plans to crack down on street-level drug dealers there.
And the training in Guadalupe is in addition to a series of changes a federal judge ordered to prevent the department from racial profiling.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been modified to reflect that Guadalupe is an incorporated town.
Updated 2/27/14 at 11:44 a.m.