PHOENIX (CN) – “Do I have to find racial animus?” the federal judge asked attorneys Thursday after testimony concluded in the civil rights class action against Sheriff Joe Arpaio. “If you intend … to use race as a factor, does it matter that you didn’t intend to violate the law?”
U.S. District Judge G. Murray Snow asked attorneys for both sides to provide him with arrest records, operational plans and shift summaries in the briefs they file in the next 2 weeks.
“Is there something less than racial animus but more than criminal intent?” Judge Snow asked the attorneys.
“Let’s say that I determine … that MCSO [Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office] believed and did and continued to use race as one factor among many in making certain law enforcement decisions in certain content … is the intent requirement for injunctive relief satisfied even though they may have had some officers or all officers believe they were acting according to law?”
The plaintiffs are not seeking money damages, but an injunction to stop Arpaio and his office from exceeding their authority, and from engaging in racial discrimination.
The court heard testimony Thursday from Bennie Click, a former Dallas police chief and an expert witness for the defense.
Click said he found no policy in the Sheriff’s Office’s training documents “that specifically addressed the language that would be racial profiling.”
Click added: “I think if it was solely, ‘I trust them so I therefore don’t have to monitor them,’ that would fall below the standard of care.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney Dan Pochoda asked Click if an officer will “readily confess to using race improperly, if he or she does it?”
Click responded: “I do think that officers would acknowledge that what they did was improper. I think there may be a hesitancy, but I think in most agencies most of the reports of misconduct from other officers and deputies come from other officers and deputies. “
Tim Casey, representing the defendants, asked Click if there is a “national standard that requires an agency the size of MCSO to have a separate stand-alone policy for racial profiling?”
Click said no – that racial profiling was usually covered more broadly as a constitutional rights issue.
“I did not find information that led me to believe that there was a pattern and practice of racial profiling,” Click testified. He said there was no benefit in racial profiling.
“Part of it is, it is going to get you in trouble. … You could be charged criminally. It is a federal felony. There are officers that have gone to prison for this.”
The court again heard from plaintiffs’ expert Ralph Taylor, a Temple University professor, who testified on the first day of the trial that Hispanic names were 34 to 40 percent more likely to be checked by a deputy during one of Arpaio’s “saturation patrols” then non-Hispanic names.
Taylor rebutted claims made by Steven Camarota on Tuesday, that the lower socioeconomic status of Latinos in Maricopa County may lead to more and lengthier traffic stops against them.
“I have seen no data specific to this population that demonstrates that to be the case,” Taylor said. “The analysis that I ran showed that if a Hispanic was pulled over on a saturation patrol day by a saturation patrol active officer, he or she was less likely to receive a citation.”
Judge Snow has not indicated when he will rule on the case.
Nor is it clear how, or if the verdict, whatever it may be, will affect Arpaio’s run for re-election to a 6th 4-year term in November.