PHOENIX (CN) – In the second week of testimony in a class action civil rights trial, a witness to Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s neighborhood sweeps described them as “like something out of the Taliban.”
However, an expert witness for Arpaio testified Tuesday that the lower socioeconomic status of Hispanics in Maricopa County may lead to more and lengthier traffic stops against them.
Steven Camarota, director of research for the Center of Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C., testified that 23 percent of Hispanics in Maricopa County live in poverty.
“It’s often very difficult for people with low income to maintain their vehicles,” Camarota said.
He argued that plaintiffs’ expert, Ralph Taylor, should have taken socioeconomic status into account in his finding that people with Hispanic names were 34 percent to 40 percent more likely to be checked by a deputy during a saturation patrol than people with non-Hispanic names.
The data provided to Taylor and Camarota was hard to analyze, Camarota said, because the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t “record race or ethnicity on traffic stops or any kind of enforcement.”
Camarota said 29 to 30 percent of the time, the data provided was missing the name of the person stopped.
“We know nothing about those cases,” Camarota said. “We don’t know if they are the same as the ones retained … which means that we don’t know what kind of distortions are in the data.”
Camarota said his analysis of the data found that “Hispanics are being stopped roughly less than their share of the Hispanic population.”
While Camarota thinks Taylor should have taken socioeconomic status into consideration, he said he “doesn’t blame Dr. Taylor” for not including it as a factor. “That doesn’t exist in the CAD (computer-automated dispatch) data; we don’t know anything about the socio-economic status,” Camarota said.
The court also heard testimony from Lydia Guzman, a member of the board of directors for Somos America, a community-based coalition.
Guzman, who said she witnessed more than 10 of Arpaio’s so-called suppression sweeps, testified that it “was very intimidating, because not only were they wearing ski masks, they were wearing bulletproof vests over their uniform.”
“It kind of looked like something out of the Taliban,” Guzman said.
Guzman said that during some of the sweeps, Somos America held community forums to explain to people “what their rights are, how to act when stopped by police,” but few people attended, because “people were afraid to go to the forums.”
Guzman said she suffered racial profiling at the hands of the Sheriff’s Office. She said a sheriff’s officer followed her during a sweep in the town of Buckeye after he watched her walk from inside a gas station to her car.
“I was headed eastbound and the deputy was following closer and closer behind me, and I thought to myself he was going to stop me, and at that moment I knew I’m racially profiled,” Guzman testified.
Guzman said she was not pulled over after she “saw a news van, a Spanish news van vehicle, and the reporter knew me and waved at me through the window.”
The reporter saw the deputy and made a U-turn to get behind the patrol car, causing the deputy to change lanes and speed off, Guzman testified.
Testimony is scheduled to end Thursday, with written briefs to be filed on Aug. 13 and Aug. 20.