PHOENIX (CN) – The U.S. Justice Department says Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio has backed off and agreed to cooperate with its investigation of civil rights problems in the office of the self-proclaimed “America’s toughest sheriff.”
The settlement came after Arpaio’s office, which originally refused to cooperate with the Justice Department’s investigation, allowed the Justice Department to review hundreds of thousands of pages of documents and conduct more than 220 interviews of county staff and inmates.
The Justice Department sued Arpaio on Sept. 2, 2010, saying the five-term sheriff refused to hand over documents for its investigation of Arpaio’s immigration enforcement operations, and after “exhausting all cooperative measures to gain access to … documents and facilities” since its investigation began in 2009.
After the lawsuit, Arpaio allowed Justice Department investigators to tour county jails, and said he will give the Justice Department access to records while the agency continues to provide it with information regarding the civil rights investigation.
“After numerous requests for access to information, the department was forced to resort to litigation to compel the sheriff’s office to provide us with full access to facilities, staff and documents, as required by federal law,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, for the Civil Rights Division.
“This is a positive development after delay upon delay by the Sheriff’s Office,” said Dennis Burke, U.S. Attorney for Arizona. “We are working aggressively to review the facts and complete this investigation.”