PHOENIX (Reuters) - A U.S. judge who twice chastised a hardline Arizona sheriff over his office’s misrepresenting a ruling aimed at quashing racial profiling said on Wednesday the lawman was complying with an order requiring employees to be educated on the issue.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow found that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office was in “substantial compliance” with an April 17 order requiring all but a few workers to read a summary of his ruling in the racially charged case.
Arpaio, who bills himself as “America’s toughest sheriff” and has cultivated a get-tough reputation on illegal immigration, did not attend the 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.
The judge has also appointed an independent monitor to check on the sheriff’s operations. Arpaio has denied that any profiling occurred and appealed the ruling.
Snow has previously chastised two chief deputies for mischaracterizing his sweeping order, prompting a requirement that sheriff’s office personnel read and sign a seven-page summary of the ruling.
In court, the sheriff’s office testified that 97.5 percent of paid employees and 78.2 percent of volunteers had completed the requirement. Tom Liddy, a sheriff’s office attorney, said the judge’s order was taken seriously.
“The sheriff and the staff have their stuff together,” Liddy said. “This is a logistical task and it takes some time ... but the sheriff was able to get it done.”
Cecillia Wang, a plaintiff’s attorney, said progress has been made but there was still a long road ahead.
“We still have work to do to get this agency, deputies and command staff to understand what went wrong here and how they violated the Constitution,” said Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Immigrants’ Rights Project. “It’s going to take some time to get them back on track.”
Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh