Sheriff Arpaio Update

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The Arizona Republic reporter J.J. Hensley provides an update on legal problems facing the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

Ted Simons: Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faced a deadline on whether to cooperate with federal officials. Here is J.J. Hensley from the Arizona republic. Good to have you back. Thanks for joining us. Before we get to what the sheriff decided to do, talk about the ultimatum. What was he facing here?

J.J. Hensley: The federal government had given him until today to basically let them know whether he was going to cooperate with 2 their investigation or in resolving the issues they identified in his office. Today kind of marks the beginning of the next period which is 60-day negotiation period where attorneys from both sides will see if they can come to some agreement on what changes need to be made in the sheriff's office.

Ted Simons: So will Arpaio cooperate and define cooperation?

J.J. Hensley: That's been the tricky point all day. Defining cooperation. He says he's going to cooperate. He says he has every intention to cooperate, but his level of cooperation is certainly up for debate because he doesn't believe this investigation holds any water, has very little truth, is kind of long on broad statements and short on details. So as part of his cooperation he sent the DOJ a 29-page records request asking for over 100 items they gathered in the course of their investigation for him to review.

Ted Simons: Basically he wants specifics but he not only says he wants specifics he gave them a deadline?

J.J. Hensley: Yeah. Typical Arpaio fashion, it was full of bold states and included a couple of deadlines, one for two weeks from now for the DOJ to signal to him whether they think they can provide everything he's asked for by march 19th.

Ted Simons: And if they don't meet his deadline, what happens?

J.J. Hensley: We're in a standoff here. Both sides have said we don't want to go to court but we'll litigate this if that's the only 3 way to resolve this issue. So I guess it depends on how optimistic of a person you are. There are certainly some in the sheriff's office who say we're optimistic that the federal government will provide this information that we have asked for and that our attorneys can work with them to resolve this.

Ted Simons: It's my impression that the Justice Department is not going to release specifics until some agreement or deal is reached. Arpaio is saying I want the specifics before the deal?

J.J. Hensley: Right. He asked for a lot of detail. Some of his requests include like the name and identity of every Latino person who we discriminated against since 2007. Now, I talked with a former Justice Department attorney in D.C. today who said a lot of this information that Arpaio has requested would naturally come over the settlement negotiations anyway, so there could be a little bit of posturing here on his part, which also would be in keeping with tradition.

Ted Simons: I want to get to that as well. He says he will cooperate and yet a previous quote he called this report a pile of unsubstantiated lies. How do you cooperate with unsubstantiated lies?

J.J. Hensley: And that's been the issue that I think people covering this have struggled with. Two weeks ago when the report was released, one of his deputy chiefs Jack McIntyre compared it to the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. So how can you cooperate with someone who is doing a Pearl Harbor style sneak attack on you? But it seems like Arpaio's attorney in a separate civil rights case a couple of weeks ago in court told the judge, political rhetoric and realty don't always meet at the sheriff's office. I'm paraphrasing, but he said something along those lines. There's certainly history that Arpaio can say one thing publicly about this being a pile of lies, a Pearl Harbor style sneak attack, while cooler heads might prevail in the negotiation room with his attorney and the Justice Department folks.

Ted Simons: Will those cooler heads agree -- we're talking about federal monitoring. And if we are, how much will he allow for these folks to have this oversight and how long would this oversight last?

J.J. Hensley: There's no telling. Monitoring is certainly a possibility. Given his statements to this point, the fact that the sheriff's office failed to cooperate with this investigation for the better part of a year until the Justice Department filed a lawsuit, all of those things indicate at least according to this former DOJ prosecutor I spoke with today that whatever agreement they come to today will have to include a lot of specific details for federal investigators to feel certain there will be compliance, which could include a monitor. That goes off into a whole 'nother realm. Arpaio said in no uncertain terms he will not cede his authority to run this office to the federal government.

Ted Simons: The Feds seem to want training and constitutional -- they seem like they are saying you need to be trained in how to do a traffic stop. I can't see MCSO going along gladly with that kind of oversight.

J.J. Hensley: Sure. I think part of this is going to be what are they able to negotiate. Feds say we need training on how to conduct a proper traffic stop. We'll show you these training materials. Is there someone we can meet in the middle to demonstrate that kind of compliance? DPS, not to get too far afield, but department of public safety had a similar issue with racial profiling with allegations. One of their remedies was to institute data collection which they have done for the last several years. Their director has said that that made them a better police force. That's one of the things that the DOJ has asked for from the sheriff's office.

Ted Simons: Seems like a lot of things in the past has resulted in many of them have resulted in better policing. Better police forces, better morale with the law enforcement community. Is that a possibility here, do you think, or like you said, is this a standoff and it's going to take a while?

J.J. Hensley: Is it a possibility? Sure. I mean, because even the Justice Department, even Tom when he was out here a few weeks ago, said that was his goal, to use the findings of this investigation to help the sheriff's office become a better police force. So certainly it's a possibility. It's the one DOJ has put forth as their ultimate goal here. The question is whether the sheriff's office, Arpaio in particular, can see the value in that and come to agreement with Justice Department that ultimately will allow the sheriff's office to save face. I don't think you would ever see him admit that they had intentionally discriminated against Hispanic residents because they say quite flatly that they have not done that.

Ted Simons: We have 60 days to figure out if a deal or agreement is done. If at the end of 60 days there's no deal sufficient to the Feds, what happens?

J.J. Hensley: Then it will go to court.

Ted Simons: So it goes to court but he stays sheriff. He still has oversight of that particular law enforcement agency.

J.J. Hensley: The litigation road is a long path. There's 30-plus-year-old lawsuit still working its way through court that has to do with health care in Maricopa County jails. Everyone is trying to avoid that lengthy, expensive path.

Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.

J.J. Hensley: Thank you.

J.J. Hensley:Reporter of The Arizona Republic;

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