PHOENIX — Taxpayers in metropolitan Phoenix are expected to pay out an
estimated $21 million over the next year and a half for changes ordered in
response to a court ruling that found an Arizona sheriff’s office racially
profiled Latinos in its regular traffic and immigration patrols.
Maricopa County also would have to pick up an additional $10 million in staff
and other costs each year beginning in mid-2015 to comply with the judge’s order
against Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office.
Immigrant rights advocates say county’s costs help rebut the once-popular
argument that local police agencies should get involved in immigration
enforcement to lower education and health care costs related to illegal
immigration because the federal government hasn’t adequately protected the
nation’s southern border.
“That’s the price you pay for going out and doing federal immigration work,”
said county Supervisor and longtime Arpaio critic Mary Rose Wilcox, explaining
that it’s more prudent to leave immigration enforcement up to federal agents who
specialize in and have long been responsible for such work.
Arpaio said he doesn’t regret getting involved in immigration enforcement and
believes his efforts have helped lower crime in the county. He noted the
Legislature passed several immigration laws in recent years that he’s duty-bound
to enforce. “It was worth the money, and it was worth the effort,” Arpaio
Seven months ago, U.S. District Judge Murray Snow ruled Arpaio’s office
systematically singled out Latinos in its trademark immigration patrols and that
sheriff’s deputies unreasonably prolonged the detentions of people who were
Arpaio is appealing the ruling and said it cast an unfavorable and unfair light
on his deputies.
The cost estimates, first reported by The Arizona Republic, were provided to
county officials by the sheriff’s office as part of a budget-making process
that’s expected to end in May.
According to the estimates, the county would pay $7.6 million for the remainder
of the current fiscal year that ends June 30 and another $14.2 million in the
following fiscal year. After that, it’s expected to cost $10 million annually as
long as the sheriff’s office remains under the judge’s order.
The costs include the expense of installing video cameras in hundreds of the
agency’s patrol vehicles, additional training to ensure officers aren’t making
unconstitutional arrests, and the salaries, benefits, vehicles and other
operating costs for a seven-person team made up of sheriff’s employees to help
carry out the judge’s order.
The people who filed the civil case against the sheriff’s office didn’t seek
monetary damages and instead wanted a declaration that Arpaio’s office engaged
in racial profiling and an order that required it to make policy changes.
The county has already spent $1.6 million defending the sheriff’s office in the
But attorneys who won the case have asked the judge to order the county to pay
$7.3 million for legal fees and others costs that they incurred while litigating
the case, a request that Arpaio’s attorneys have called excessive and
The judge hasn’t yet ruled on that request.