PHOENIX (CN) – The deputy chief who oversees Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Human Smuggling Unit spoke Thursday of a “disconnect” between Arpaio’s public words and the actions of his deputies.
“When I say disconnect, oftentimes he doesn’t understand what the rank-and-file deputies are doing out there,” Deputy Chief Brian Sands testified.
Arpaio sends Sands copies of letters he receives from constituents suggesting locations for saturation patrols.
“Have you ever, since 2007, received any pressure from Joe Arpaio to go to a certain area for a saturation patrol?” asked Tim Casey, an attorney for the defendant Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
Sands, who denied that he had, has worked for the Sheriff’s Office for more than 26 years, under four sheriffs.
Sands said that some “inaccuracies that went out” in some Sheriff’s Office press releases about saturation patrols. He denied that sheriff’s deputies racially profile, claiming the agency “does not have that culture, nor is there anything in the system that would reward someone to promote that kind of activity.”
Also Thursday, Lorena Escamilla, a 33-year-old customer service representative from Laveen, Ariz., testified that a sheriff’s deputy slammed her into her car while she was 5 months pregnant.
Escamilla said she was driving home from school at 10 p.m. when she was pulled over outside of her house.
“I asked him what I was being pulled over for,” Escamilla testified. “There was no response, he just walked away.”
When the deputy returned, he said he had reason to believe she had drugs, alcohol, and weapons in her car.
“I said, ‘No, I’m pregnant, I’m on my way home from school,” Escamilla said.
“He said, ‘It doesn’t matter, people still do drugs when they are pregnant.'”
Escamilla said she refused to let the deputy search her car, and tried to call “for law enforcement to come,” but the deputy took her cell phone away from her. So she pressed her car horn until her husband came outside the house.
After Escamilla got out of the car, the deputy told her to sit on the hood of her car, but she refused, telling him, “It’s really hot; my hips hurt; I’m pregnant.”
She said the deputy replied, “I can be an asshole, if you want to be a bitch.”
The deputy slammed the front of her body three to four times against the side of her car and put her in the back of his patrol car, she testified.
“He yelled at me and said, ‘You did this to yourself, you did this to yourself,'” Escamilla said.
deputy cited her for failure to provide proof of insurance and failure to provide identification; the charges were later dismissed.
The court also heard from sheriff’s Officer Carlos Rangel, who took part in the arrest of Manuel de Jesús Ortega Melendres, the lead plaintiff in the civil rights class action that claims Arpaio and his Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office target Latinos by racial profiling.
“Are you an anti-Hispanic bigot?” Tom Liddy, a lawyer for defendants, asked Rangel.
“No, I’m not,” Rangel replied.
“Would it be fair to characterize your job, in part, to protect Hispanics that are not from the United States?” Liddy asked.
Rangel, a Spanish-speaking Latino, told the court that he once went undercover to save a person who was being held for ransom by human smugglers, leading to the arrest of the smugglers.
“A life was at stake,” Rangel said.
Lt. Joe Sousa, unit commander of the Human Smuggling Unit from September 2007 to April 2012, testified that the primary job of the unit is to enforce the state’s human smuggling law. Sousa said he had a “zero tolerance” policy during saturation patrols to prevent racial profiling.
Zero tolerance requires deputies during saturation patrols to issue civil citations to anyone pulled over for a civil violation, and to arrest anyone issued a criminal citation.
“I would say the majority of the arrest lists that I reviewed had a lot of Hispanic surnames,” Sousa acknowledged.
“I’ve never taken a citizen’s complaint for racial profiling,” Sousa said. He said he weeded out any “citizen racial profiling” in requests for patrols from citizens.
Arpaio, 80, is seeking a sixth term in November.
The plaintiffs do not seek money damages, but an injunction to stop the Sheriff’s Office from exceeding its authority, and from engaging in racial discrimination.
Testimony in the trial is expected to conclude next week.