U.S. judge chastises Arizona sheriff's aide in racial profiling case

PHOENIX Mon Mar 24, 2014 5:49pm EDT

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio addresses the media about a simulated school shooting in Fountain Hills, Arizona, February 9, 2013. REUTERS/Darryl Webb

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio addresses the media about a simulated school shooting in Fountain Hills, Arizona, February 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Darryl Webb

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - A federal judge admonished Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio and a chief deputy on Monday for critical remarks directed at a sweeping court ruling that found their deputies racially profiled Latino drivers.

The judge warned Arpaio, a divisive figure in the national immigration debate, and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan that he would not tolerate the type of behavior recorded in an October briefing that saw the top aide call the court order ludicrous and absurd.

"I intend to have my order followed," said U.S. District Judge Murray Snow, who required Arpaio and Sheridan to attend the court hearing.

Snow ordered Arpaio last year to stop using race as a factor when making law enforcement decisions, in response to a 2007 lawsuit that tested whether police could target unauthorized immigrants without also profiling U.S. citizens and legal residents of Hispanic origin.

Snow's order called for an independent monitor to ensure that Arpaio, who bills himself as "America's toughest sheriff," no longer had deputies use race in making law enforcement decisions. Appointed in January, the monitor, veteran lawman Robert Warshaw, was in court on Monday.

Snow also mandated that other steps be taken, including appointing a community advisory board, audio and video recording of all traffic stops, stepped-up training of sheriff's office employees and the implementation of comprehensive record keeping.

Sheridan apologized in court for his statements, saying they were made out of frustration and at a time when deputy morale was low at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

"I am ashamed of some of the things I said in the briefing," he said. "I know I made some mistakes, I mischaracterized your order."

Arpaio did not speak in court. He has denied that his deputies use racial profiling and has said the sheriff's office was appealing the court's findings.

Snow said the two officials were free to speak their minds in public, but not when it comes to training the deputies who will carry out the ruling. The training video was taken during an October 18 briefing before a so-called saturation profile, where deputies crack down on crime in a certain area for several days.

On Monday, Snow ordered Arpaio's office to distribute a summary of the racial profiling order, signed by Sheridan and Arpaio, to try to correct any misunderstandings. Included will be a statement that deputies must use their "best efforts" to enforce the order.

An attorney for the plaintiffs in the racial profiling case said the judge's action on Monday sent a "clear message" to the sheriff's office.

"The proof will be in the pudding as to whether Sheridan, the sheriff and the rest of the MCSO are actually serious about the court order," said Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants' Rights Project. "The judge has given them a chance to do just that - and one chance only."

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Gunna Dickson)

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