Say It Ain't So, Sheriff Joe

Say It Ain't So, Sheriff Joe

"Years ago a college classmate of mine from New York visited a mutual friend of ours who owns a ranch in southern Arizona.  Enchanted by the beauty of the place, Mark went for a walk by himself.  Finding himself in a peaceful valley, he laid down on his back and closed his eyes so that he could listen to the sounds of nature.  He may have dozed.  In time he became aware that there was someone standing over him. When he opened his eyes he faced a gun cocked and pointed at this head.  It was a border officer, who took Mark (who had no identification) into custody.  There they grilled him about whether he was a drug dealer or a smuggler.   Mark is a light-skinned African American with Native American blood.  He is also an extremely well-spoken lawyer who was able to talk himself out of his predicament.  Many other brown-skinned Americans in Arizona aren't so lucky:

  • A 5 months pregnant woman living in Arizona pulled into her driveway after being followed by the police. She exited the car and the officer ordered her to sit on its hood. When she refused he pulled both of her arms behind her back and slammed her, stomach first, into the vehicle three times. Then he dragged her into the patrol car and pushed her into the back seat, where he made her wait for a half hour without air conditioning. He ultimately ticketed her for failing to provide identification, a charge which was later changed to failure to provide proof of insurance and was resolved when she brought it to the local court.
  • Two officers followed a woman for a quarter of a mile to her home. The officers told the woman to remain in her car. When she attempted to leave the car to enter her home, the officers used force to take her to the ground, kneed her in the back, and handcuffed her. The woman was then taken into custody, cited for “disorderly conduct,” and eventually returned home. The disorderly conduct citation was subsequently dismissed.
  • Officers stopped a car carrying four  men, although the car was not violating any traffic laws. The officers ordered the men out of the car, zip-tied them, and made them sit on the curb for an hour before releasing all of them after determining that they had legal status. The only reason given for the stop was that the men’s car was driving "a little low,” which is not a criminal or traffic violation.
  • Officers entered a house adjacent to one they were raiding and searched it, without a warrant and without consent. Although they found no evidence of criminal activity, after the search was over, the officers zip-tied the residents, a man and his 12-year-old son. They required them to sit on the sidewalk for more than an hour along with approximately 10 other people  who had been seized from the target house, before being released.

What do all of the above people have in common?  They are Latinos.  They are Americans or permanent residents, lawfully present in the U.S.  And, according to a 32 page complaint filed by the Department of Justice this week, they are victims of racial profiling and discrimination by Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona." - Laura Danielson, May 12, 2012.