Home Financial responsibility With latest payment, former Arizona sheriff cost taxpayers $ 100 million in lawsuits

With latest payment, former Arizona sheriff cost taxpayers $ 100 million in lawsuits


PHOENIX (AP) – Almost five years after Joe Arpaio was elected sheriff for Arizona’s most populous county, taxpayers are covering one of the last major bills in thousands of lawsuits as the attorney’s tactics have inspired.

Officials in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, agreed last week to pay $ 3.1 million to cover the county’s portion of a settlement with a restaurant owner who alleged Arpaio defamed him and violated his rights during a raid on his companies.

The payment brings attorney fees, settlements and other costs the county has paid for the lawsuits stemming from Arpaio’s six sentences to $ 100 million for reasons such as prison deaths, unsuccessful investigations into political enemies of the sheriff and corporate immigration raids.

This does not include the separate $ 178 million and tally of taxpayers who disbursed in a racial profiling case in 2007 stemming from Arpaio’s iconic traffic patrols targeting immigrants, although about 75% of that spending was occurred during the supervision of his successor as he struggled to comply with the court. – Orderly reviews of the sheriff’s office.

Michael Manning, an attorney who secured death settlements in Arpaio prisons and on behalf of county employees the sheriff investigated, said he was shameful voters continued to re-elect Arpaio as his legal bills were piling up.

“They didn’t care as long as they got the entertainment value,” Manning said. “And it went on and on.”

Immigrant advocates have long warned that Arpaio should be seen as a warning for the long-term financial obligations that communities assume when they let local police officers take care of law enforcement. ‘immigration.

The Republican sheriff was first known nationally for trapping people in tents amid Phoenix’s triple-figure summer heat, making them wear pink underwear and using them on chain gangs at the old one. His influence in Republican circles grew when he launched crackdowns on immigration, which has long been seen as the duty of federal authorities.

These crackdowns continued until its immigration powers were finally withdrawn by the federal government and the courts in 2014.

Arpaio’s crushing defeat in 2016 to a Democratic challenger came after he was found in contempt of court for ignoring a judge’s order in the profiling case, which led to a more serious conviction for criminal contempt in 2017, which was later pardoned by President Donald Trump.

Arpaio, 89, who lost an offer in 2020 to regain his post and is now running for mayor in Fountain Hills, Ariz., Said he was proud of the way he ran one of the world’s largest prison systems. county in the United States.

He stressed that prison operators are often the target of a large number of lawsuits, and given that he served 24 years as a sheriff, “$ 100 million is not unreasonable.”

He defended his immigration crackdowns, saying he had a duty to enforce new state laws banning the smuggling of immigrants and the use of fake ID to secure employment. . Arpaio argues that some spending in the profiling case for things like equipment and additional staff was needed to modernize the agency anyway.

Legal expenses for Arpaio’s office, which apart from the racial profiling case averaged around $ 4.2 million per year, was not as high as some police departments . Litigation costs for the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department, for example, totaled $ 480 million for the eight-year period ending in late June 2020, an average of around $ 60 million per year, according to the records. .

Yet the number of lawsuits – over 6,000 in federal courts alone – and Arpaio’s apparent indifference to them is remarkable.

Some of the most publicized payments have been $ 8.25 million for the asphyxiating death of a man who fought with officers at Arpaio prison; $ 8.7 million for officials and judges who claimed Arpaio had launched falsified investigations against them; $ 3.5 million in a lawsuit alleging Arpaio’s office botched the investigation into the rape of a developmentally challenged 13-year-old girl; and $ 200,000 for a remand inmate who was tied up before and after giving birth in a hospital.

Even after his ouster, payments continued, including a $ 7 million settlement with the family of a mentally ill man who died after being beaten and knocked out by officers in one of Arpaio.

The payment to the restaurateur last week would be the last major case against Arpaio.

The taxpayer bill for the racial profiling case is expected to continue to rise.

The judge in this case ordered an overhaul of the traffic control operations of the sheriff’s office, including new training for deputies, analysis of traffic stop data, establishment of a system warning to identify officers with problematic behavior, equipping Members with body cameras and other changes.

The court then ordered a second overhaul of the agency’s internal affairs operation, which under Arpaio had been criticized for shielding sheriff officials from liability.

A quarter of the $ 178 million spent on the profiling case took place while Arpaio was still in office. The rest came during the tenure of new Sheriff Paul Penzone.

Much of the expense goes to hire employees to help meet court requirements. Expenses are expected to continue until the sheriff’s office has fully complied with the court for three consecutive years. Although some progress has been made, it has not yet been found to be fully compliant.

Penzone faced his own legal issues, including a civil contempt claim for taking too long to complete internal affairs investigations. Penzone said he would not challenge the request.

Raul Piña, who sits on a community advisory board set up to help improve confidence in the sheriff’s office, said Arpaio and Penzone are both to blame for the high costs of the profiling case.

He also said law enforcement studies show Hispanic drivers stopped by sheriff’s deputies are still treated differently from white drivers.

“You don’t have brown people parading in front of the cameras,” Piña said. “It’s better. But the results of racial profiling are essentially the same. Does it look better? Sure. People just have to decide today that we are in a better place? I guess. But if you are a victim of this, is it really better?

In a statement, Penzone said the challenges of the profiling case are his responsibility.

“Rebuilding an organization and managing federal court oversight is a difficult and evolving process,” Penzone said. “We have made tremendous progress in some areas, lacking in others. Our work continues, but rest assured that MCSO is a much better organization today than when we started monitoring.

Even though voters’ frustration over Arpaio’s contempt conviction and legal bills would have contributed significantly to his defeat in 2016, the former sheriff said he had no regrets about his tenure.

“I would do it again,” Arpaio said.

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