Guadalupe Mayor Asks For Apology From MCSO
GUADALUPE, Ariz. - Close to 100 community members gathered in Guadalupe on Wednesday evening for a meeting organized by the court-appointed monitor in the racial profiling case against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
The meeting was particularly significant given a history of tension between the Sheriff’s office and the predominantly indigenous Latino town.
Guadalupe, with just over 6,000 residents, is nestled between Phoenix and Tempe. It contracts with MCSO for policing services.
Robert Warshaw is the court-appointed monitor overseeing MCSO’s compliance with a long list of court-ordered changes to ensure the agency does not engage in racial profiling.
Warshaw led the bilingual meeting in Guadalupe and disclosed the findings of his team’s first quarterly report documenting MCSO’s compliance between Jan. 1 and June 30 of this year.
“The numbers are not good,” Warshaw said, and then repeated in Spanish, “Los números no son buenos.”
He said out of 87 court-ordered changes the Sheriff’s office could reasonably have achieved by the end of June, it still had not reached full compliance in 76 of them. But Warshaw said he believes the agency is making an effort.
“Will they be successful? Yo no sé,” Warshaw said, using the Spanish words for ‘I don’t know.’ “But is there evidence that they are trying? The answer is yes.”
In April of 2008, the Sheriff’s office conducted a crime suppression operation in Guadalupe that led to the arrests of dozens of unauthorized immigrants. It sparked protests and tensions between town leadership and Sheriff Joe Arpaio and a period in which the town’s contract with the sheriff’s office was cancelled.
Several members of the sheriff’s staff attended the meeting, including Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan, who gave remarks. He said the agency was changing rapidly and he asked the community to recognize that.
“If we continue to go back and talk about what happened six years ago, eight years ago, we can never go forward,” Sheridan said. “And we as an organization of over 3,500 people all want to move forward. So I ask for your openness of mind and heart to what we are doing.”
When it was time for public comment on Wednesday night, it was clear tensions were still running high.
“If we are going to keep going forward, we are going to have to correct the wrongs that were done back then,” said Guadalupe resident Ismael Osuna, who introduced himself as a member of the Yaqui tribe.
Osuna went on to recount how a sheriff’s deputy on a search for a criminal had forced entry into his home and had damaged a door in the process. Osuna, who was not home at the time, said the incident had terrified the mother of his child who was home caring for their newborn.
Activist Lydia Guzman, who is also a plaintiff in the racial profiling class action lawsuit against MCSO, said she believed many of the problems began with that April 2008 crime suppression operation. She accused the sheriff’s office of lying to town leadership about its intentions to do an immigration sweep in the town.
“To really show good faith, do something that the court has not ordered and issue a public apology to the town of Guadalupe for lying,” Guzman said.
Guadalupe’s mayor Rebecca Jimenez then took the microphone. She said stories like the one Osuna shared were not isolated cases and said she and her family had also experienced abuses by MCSO deputies.
“We were terrorized in this community for many many years,” Jimenez said. “This used to be known as a dumping ground for rogue deputies.”
She then echoed Guzman’s request for an apology.
“Our community has been through a lot and if you really want to show strides are being made, I think, I demand, I request, whatever words you want to put it in, that the town of Guadalupe do get a public apology by Sheriff Arpaio and MCSO," she said.
Wednesday’s meeting was the third one the court-appointed monitor has held. The meetings are among the changes ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow who found in May 2013 that the Sheriff's office had discriminated against Latino drivers.
The monitor will hold future meetings in different locations throughout the county.