Plaintiffs Rest In Arpaio Racial Profiling Trial

By Jude Joffe-Block
August 01, 2012

PHOENIX -- Attorneys for the plaintiffs accusing Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his office of discriminating against Latinos rested their case in Federal District Court late Tuesday morning.

The plaintiffs allege that Arpaio’s tactics resulted in unfair treatment of Latino motorists in Maricopa County.

Cecillia Wang of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is representing plaintiffs, said despite MCSO officers' testimony that they do not engage in racial profiling, their other sworn statements revealed problems at the department.

“Seargants at MCSO keep saying, ‘We trust our deputies not to racially profile,’” Wang said after court to a group of reporters. “But they also testified that when they looked at numbers like 43 out of 44 people arrested during one of these immigration sweeps are Latino, that did not bother them in the least. They did not look to see whether there was racial profiling going on, simply because they know their guys and they trust them.”

Wang added: “There is a blue curtain, and behind the blue curtain no one is interested in whether there is actually racial profiling going on.”

But attorneys for the sheriff's office maintain the plaintiffs have not proven their case.

“We have had how many days of trial?” asked Tom Liddy after court. “And not one piece of evidence that a single deputy used race to make a single stop.”

The defense began to lay out its case Tuesday afternoon. Attorneys say they expect to finish questioning their witnesses as early as Wednesday at 5 p.m.

As their first witness, defendants called Steven Camarota, the director of research at the Center for Immigration Studies, a Washington-based think tank that favors more restrictive immigration policies.

Camorata’s testimony attempted to poke holes in a key part of the plaintiff's case: an analsysis of MCSO traffic stops by the plaintiff's expert, Temple University Professor Ralph Taylor.

Taylor found that during MCSO saturation patrols, deputies were more likely to stop motorists with Hispanic names than other drivers, and that those stops lasted longer. Camorata questioned whether socioeconomic status rather than ethnicity could explain the trend, and raised concerns about the universe of stops that Taylor analyzed.

Judge Murray Snow will decide the case. He announced in court that there would be no oral closing arguments in the case. Instead, Snow is asking each side to submit a written brief on Aug 9 and a rebuttal on Aug 16.

Plaintiffs are not seeking money, instead they are asking the court to force the MCSO to put in protections against racial profiling.

Activists who oppose Arpaio announced they will be at the courthouse on Wednesday to kick off a voter registration drive in order to oust the sheriff from office in the November election.