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Some say suit alleging racism by Sheriff Arpaio is long overdue

May 10, 2012|By Dalina Castellanos
  • Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, with a copy of the civil rights lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arapio, tells the Los Angeles Times: People have been saying, `Finally, justice has come.
Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox, with a copy of the civil rights… (Ross D. Franklin / Associated…)

At least in some parts of Arizona's Maricopa County -- especially in predominantly Latino communities -- a collective sigh of relief was let out Thursday as people learned of the Department of Justice’s lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

“People have been saying, ‘Finally, justice has come,’ ” Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox told the Los Angeles Times.

Justice officials allege that Arpaio and his Phoenix law enforcement department exercised a pattern of abuse and racism against Latinos, especially immigrants.

The suit asks a federal judge to force the sheriff to stop racially profiling Latinos and abusing them in his jails.

Some Latinos have fled the area, regardless of their citizenship, and those who stayed have been afraid to go out at night because of Arpaio’s raids, Wilcox said.

"It just wasn't worth the hassle," she said.

Among the allegations by Justice officials in the suit are that Arpaio allowed and encouraged his deputies to randomly profile Latino motorists and stop them for little reason.

Wilcox, a fourth-generation Mexican American, was indicted by the Sheriff’s Department when she publicly voiced her opposition to the raids in her heavily Latino district.

“We welcome [the] lawsuit, in light of the sheriff’s refusal to put in place the necessary mechanisms to prevent abuses of power that have hurt Latino immigrants and U.S. citizens alike,” National Council of La Raza President Janet Murguía said in a statement.

But Arpaio, who has served as sheriff for more than 20 years, remains a popular figure in many parts of the state.

Andi Bell, who organized a walk of support for Arpaio last month, said any lawsuit against the sheriff is unfair.

"Everyone has been going after Joe Arpaio. He does not exist to break the law," Bell said in an interview. "The Department of Justice and the administration is not protecting us in Arizona. He is."

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dalina.castellanos@latimes.com

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