The Obama administration on Tuesday said it was preparing to sue Arizona county sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department for violating civil rights laws by improperly targeting Latinos in a bid to crack down on illegal immigrants.
The administration’s Justice Department and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office have been in settlement talks for months over allegations that officers regularly made unlawful stops and arrests of Latinos, used excessive force against them and failed to adequately protect the Hispanic community.
Those negotiations have broken down because of a fight over the Justice Department’s demand that an independent monitor be appointed by a federal court to oversee compliance with the settlement, which has now reached 128 pages in draft form, according to the Obama administration.
The Justice Department in a December report outlined numerous alleged civil rights violations, including that Latino drivers were four to nine times more likely to be stopped than non-Latinos by Arpaio’s force.
The sheriff has steadfastly denied any wrongdoing and lashed out at the Obama administration for targeting his department and failing to deal with the problem of illegal immigration with some 11.5 million believed to be in the United States.
In a strongly worded statement on Tuesday, Arpaio said the appointment of a monitor would force him to abdicate responsibility for his police force, including decisions about policies, operations, jail programs and enforcement.
“To the Obama administration, who is attempting to strong arm me into submission only for its political gain, I say: This will not happen, not on my watch!” Arpaio said in the statement.