Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix has rejected outright the U.S. Justice Department’s demand for an independent monitor to oversee his office’s operations, saying it would infringe on his authority over the agency, the Arizona Republic reports. The decision makes it likely that the two sides will face off in federal court in what both parties expect to be a lengthy and expensive court battle to settle government allegations that Arpaio’s deputies discriminate against Latino residents.
The Justice Department last December issued findings from a three-year investigation that accused the sheriff’s office of rampant discrimination against Latinos in its police and jail operations. Negotiations on remedies were expected to begin within weeks, with the explicit threat of a federal lawsuit if negotiations were unsuccessful. This week, a top Justice Department attorney contacted Arpaio’s lawyers and told them that agreement on the presence of an independent monitor was among the crucial elements required to continue negotiations and avoid a lawsuit. Arpaio flatly rejected a monitor yesterday, calling it a political attempt by President Barack Obama’s administration to take control of daily operations in the Sheriff’s Office.