Joe Arpaio, the outspoken sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., has been sued by the U.S. Justice Department for refusing to cooperate with a civil-rights probe into police practices and jail operations, reports USA Today. Arpaio said the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, is disappointing given that he and his office were cooperating on the federal probe. “I thought we were really close to getting this resolved,” the sheriff said. He said his deputies do not target Hispanic citizens because of their race, and said if the Justice Department had any evidence of racial profiling, they wouldn’t be suing him to get records to prove that deputies profile.
The lawsuit comes after weeks of back-and-forth letters between the agencies, threats to strip the county of federal funding, and a meeting in Washington last week among attorneys to discuss the investigation. A spokeswoman for the Justice Department has said this is the first time in the last 30 years that a police or sheriff’s agency has refused to cooperate with a Title VI investigation. Thursday’s action marks the first time the agency is suing to compel access to documents and facilities. The investigation is being conducted under the authority of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids discrimination related to programs that receive federal funds.