. . . Let’s nail the sher­iff

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

grand­stand­ing is its game, and its in­tended prize is the scalp of a pesti­lent sher­iff.

Mr. Ar­paio is fa­mous as a tough, lock-’em-up law­man who has housed pris­on­ers in tent cities and even made them wear wimpy pink cloth­ing for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion. What re­ally en­rages lib­er­als, how­ever, is his ar­rest of many thou­sands of il­le­gal im­mi­grants over the years. In 2008, he was sued, by plain­tiffs rep­re­sented by the ACLU, for pur­ported civil rights vi­o­la­tions in­volv­ing eth­nic pro­fil­ing of Lati­nos in the county. Among the law­suit’s al­le­ga­tions was the claim that the “tele­phonic hot line” he set up to un­earth sus­pected im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions was, by its very na­ture, sure to gen­er­ate “false, in­ac­cu­rate and racially mo­ti­vated re­ports about Latino res­i­dents.”

In March, the Jus­tice Depart­ment opened a civil rights in­ves­ti­ga­tion against the sher­iff. Even though a Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity au­dit has since found no ev­i­dence of eth­nic pro­fil­ing, the Jus­tice Depart­ment in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tin­ues. Mean­while, of­fi­cials from both fed­eral de­part­ments were caught im­prop­erly col­lab­o­rat­ing with each other in the course of the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Worse, Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials ac­cused the sher­iff, quite im­plau­si­bly, of go­ing soft on il­le­gal im­mi­grants — and when the sher­iff played au­dio tapes prov­ing that it was the depart­ment that or­dered him to let some il­le­gals free, Home­land Se­cu­rity told him he was in vi­o­la­tion of a gag or­der. In short, the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­si­tion was that he had no First Amend­ment right to cor­rect the pub­lic record.

At some point ear­lier this month, the Jus­tice Depart­ment set up an anony- mous tip line, 877/613-2137, to en­cour­age com­plaints against the sher­iff.

Tip lines to solve spe­cific crimes are a com­mon law en­force­ment tool, but this one is un­usual. “I’ve never seen one di­rected at a par­tic­u­lar en­tity like the sher­iff,” said Robert N. Driscoll, an at­tor­ney for Sher­iff Ar­paio and him­self a for­mer deputy as­sis­tant at­tor­ney gen­eral for the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s civil rights divi­sion. In other words, tip lines are to find an un­known crim­i­nal when a crime is dis­cov­ered, not to find a crime to pin on a spe­cific in­di­vid­ual.

Sher­iff Ar­paio prob­a­bly can han­dle just about any­thing the ad­min­is­tra­tion throws at him. The pub­lic, how­ever, will suf­fer if the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s dirty tricks are al­lowed to go un­chal­lenged. Po­lit­i­cal vendet­tas should not en­joy the sta­tus of le­git­i­mate law en­force­ment.

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