Posted on December 27, 2011

DOJ’s Race Claims Are, Alas, Weak

Robert Robb, Arizona Republic, December 21, 2011

The most sensational allegation the Department of Justice has leveled against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office is that Latinos are four to nine times more likely to be subject to traffic stops than similarly situated non-Latino drivers.

It is also the most important allegation. It appears to provide hard evidence in support of the general claim that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is guilty of systemic racial discrimination.

At this point, however, the presumption has to be that the allegation is also based on junk science, since the DOJ refuses to release the “statistical study” on which it is based.

The reason for that presumption, paradoxically, is the DOJ’s findings letter itself. Another allegation is that the sheriff’s office does not keep sufficient data on traffic stops to determine whether racial profiling is occurring.

How can the underlying data be insufficient to determine whether racial profiling is occurring, but sufficient to conclude that Arpaio’s office racially profiles more than any other law-enforcement agency in the country?

The DOJ says the sheriff’s office “frequently” arrests Latinos without cause. What constitutes “frequently”? The DOJ doesn’t say.

How does the percentage of wrongful arrests of Latinos compare with that of non-Latinos? The DOJ doesn’t say. How does the record of the sheriff’s office compare with that of other Valley law-enforcement agencies with respect to wrongful arrests? The DOJ doesn’t say.


Arpaio, of course, contends that’s because the issue isn’t really racial discrimination. It’s an attempt by the Obama administration to stop him from enforcing immigration laws.

I don’t think that’s the case. Regrettably, however, the Department of Homeland Security strongly bolstered Arpaio’s argument when it rescinded the authorization for his office to access federal databases to check the immigration status of those booked in the county jails.

This is the one immigration-enforcement program of Arpaio’s that incontestably is implemented in a racially neutral fashion. The immigration status of everyone booked is checked. {snip}


I’ve made it clear that I think Arpaio is running a rogue agency. {snip}

In my book, Arpaio wears a very black hat, and it would be great if some good guys chased him out of town.

At this point, however, it’s far from clear that the Obama administration is wearing the white hat in this story.