WASHINGTON – The Justice Department has filed a lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), Maricopa County, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio for refusing full cooperation with the department’s investigation of alleged national origin discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VI prohibits discrimination in programs that receive federal funds, and also requires grant recipients to cooperate with investigations of discrimination by providing access to documents, facilities and staff. MCSO signed contractual assurance agreements as a condition of receiving federal funds, and promised that it would cooperate with investigations of alleged discrimination.
The department filed the lawsuit after exhausting all cooperative measures to gain access to MCSO’s documents and facilities, as part of the department’s investigation of alleged discrimination in MCSO’s police practices and jail operations. Since March 2009, the department has attempted to secure voluntary compliance with the department’s investigation. MCSO’s refusal to cooperate with the investigation makes it an extreme outlier and the department is unaware of any other police department or sheriff’s office that has refused to cooperate in the last 30 years.
“The actions of the sheriff's office are unprecedented. It is unfortunate that the department was forced to resort to litigation to gain access to public documents and facilities,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.
The department’s investigation of MCSO concerns alleged discrimination against Hispanics, in violation of the prohibition on national origin discrimination in Title VI; the pattern or practice provisions of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968; and the pattern or practice provisions of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. Title VI prohibits discrimination in federally assisted programs on the ground of race, color, or national origin.
The department’s investigation remains open and ongoing.