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Updated May 9, 2012 - 12:03 pm

Arpaio to improve relations with Hispanic community

PHOENIX -- Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced departmental changes Tuesday to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in an effort to mend fences with the Hispanic community.

Arpaio made the announcement just hours after receiving notice from the Department of Justice that it plans to sue his office.

More community forums focused on the Hispanic community and deputies receiving Spanish language courses are just two of the forthcoming steps intended to ease the tensions brought on by Arpaio's handling of immigration enforcement.

The two sides have been at odds for months over the federal agency's investigation into the sheriff's department and accusations of racial profiling during crime sweeps.

"I don't tolerate racist attitudes or behavior. But perception can be more powerful than fact. I want to address the concerns of the Hispanic community openly," Arpaio said.

"I don't think they really understand what we're doing and this (policy shift) will open it up and I think there's a misunderstanding on how we operate in enforcing illegal immigration laws."

While Arpaio intends to improve relations with the Latino community, he made it clear that he will not cave to federal agents, who want to place their own monitor in his jails.

Arpaio rejected that idea but is considering hiring his own monitor.

"I am not changing the oath I took to enforce all of the laws. I will continue to enforce the laws," he said.

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