Justice Department lawsuit claims Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio violated Hispanics' civil rights

It's been a classic old-West showdown: the self-acclaimed "America's toughest sheriff" versus the Feds.

For years, the Justice Department has investigated Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona. In December, it accused him of violating the civil rights of Hispanics for unlawfully stopping, detaining and arresting them. For months, it tried to negotiate a settlement. In April, when negotiations fell through, the department threatened to sue.

Through it all, Arpaio, known for forcing inmates to dress in pink underwear and work on chain gangs, remained defiant: "I absolutely refuse to surrender my responsibility to the federal government," the sheriff said in April. "This will not happen on my watch."

The Justice Department announced Thursday that it has sued Arpaio, his office and Maricopa County for civil rights violations, including what it says is the long-standing racial profiling of Latinos.

"At its core, this is an abuse of power case involving Sheriff Arpaio and a sheriff's office that disregarded the Constitution, ignored sound police practices and did not hesitate to retaliate against perceived critics in a variety of unlawful ways," Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division, said.

Arpaio, who has denied the profiling allegations, shot back: "They're telling me how to run my organization."

Information from Associated Press was used in this report.

Justice Department lawsuit claims Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio violated Hispanics' civil rights 05/10/12 [Last modified: Friday, May 11, 2012 7:16am]

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