SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The 9th Circuit on Wednesday upheld court-ordered reforms for Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office after a class of drivers prevailed in their claim that the sheriff and his deputies racially profile Latinos during immigration patrols and traffic stops.
Five people and the organization Somos America sued Sheriff Joseph Arpaio and the MCSO in a 2007 class action, after the individual plaintiffs claimed the sheriff’s deputies racially profiled and detained them during crime suppression sweeps.
A federal judge concluded after a bench trial in 2013 that the defendants “employed an unconstitutional policy of considering race as a factor in determining where to conduct patrol operations, in deciding whom to stop and investigate for civil immigration violations, and in prolonging the detentions of Latinos while their immigration status was confirmed,” according to the circuit’s 24-page opinion.
The judge barred the MCSO from using race of Latino ancestry as a factor in deciding whether to stop a vehicle and also from detaining Latino occupants of vehicles stopped for traffic violations “for a period longer than reasonably necessary,” among other prohibitions.
Additionally, the judge also issued a supplemental injunction requiring the sheriff to “increase training, improve traffic-stop documentation, develop an early identification system for racial profiling problems, enhance supervision and evaluation of MCSO deputies, and improve reporting of misconduct complaints.”
It also ordered the appointment of an independent monitor, a person or team selected to assess and report on the MCSO’s implementation of the injunctive reforms.
The sheriff’s department appealed these requirements because it believed they were “broader than necessary.”
Writing for a panel of the 9th Circuit, Judge Clifford Wallace said that although the MCSO argued that the injunction “impermissibly extends” to non-saturation patrol operations, the distinction between the two types of patrols is “artificial and ultimately immaterial.”
“From plaintiffs’ perspective, it makes no difference which internal label the MCSO assigns to any given traffic patrol operation,” he wrote.
The department also protested the injunction’s required training on racial profiling and on the Fourth Amendment, but the panel upheld these provisions because MCSO gave “virtually no training” in those areas and because evidence indicates that some deputies and supervisors “lacked basic knowledge of constitutional requirements.”
And the panel also upheld the court’s provisions requiring data collection and video-recording of traffic stops, which Wallace wrote was necessary to ensure compliance in this case because MCSO has a “record of spoliating evidence.”
However, the panel partially agreed with the department’s challenge regarding the appointment of a monitor. The monitor should have authority in areas directly related to the constitutional violations at issue but should not have the discretion to consider disciplinary outcomes for any violations of departmental policy as the injunction currently requires, the opinion stated.Neither side could be reached for comment.