Joe Arpaio bills himself as a tough-talking lawman, but he turned down the volume in an Arizona court of law this week.
The Maricopa County sheriff took the stand in the civil suit alleging that his department violated people's rights by profiling Latinos. Media reports agree that the sheriff, famous for his strident and ferocious verbal attacks on illegal immigrants during numerous television and other media appearances, was far quieter while on the stand Tuesday. Arpaio explained that he was suffering from the flu.
“We don't arrest people because of the color of their skin,” Arpaio insisted during testimony throughout the day.
Latinos represented by various groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union, are suing Arpaio and his office, arguing that Maricopa County officers systematically profile Latinos during law-enforcement sweeps in Latino areas in Phoenix. Latinos were pulled over during traffic stops without probable cause because they were Latino, the group alleges.
There is no jail time or financial penalty involved in the case, which is the first time the sheriff's office has had to defend itself in a court of law against the charge of racial profiling. The suit is also a taste of what will be argued in a broader federal civil rights suit filed in May.