PHOENIX — A federal judge presiding over a racial profiling case against
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office said Thursday he has “zero
confidence” that the agency can train its officers if one of the sheriff’s top
aides never bothered to read key court findings.
U.S. District Judge Murray Snow said during a hearing that he would no longer
put up with any mischaracterizations of the court’s findings, even those that
are made innocently.
“I am not going to tolerate any good-faith slip-ups anymore,” Snow said.
Ten months ago, Snow concluded that Arpaio’s office systematically racially
profiled Latinos in its immigration and regular traffic patrols and unreasonably
prolonged the detentions of people during traffic stops.
According to Snow, a video shows Deputy Chief David Trombi made several
misstatements at a March 15 community meeting, such as saying the judge found
deputies had detained Hispanic drivers 14 seconds longer than non-Hispanics.
Trombi also said that Snow based his court findings on the fact that only two
sheriff’s deputies used race as a factor in determining whether to arrest
Trombi said in court that he picked up the information from informal
conversations with other Sheriff’s Office employees going back six months. When
asked if he looked through the 145-page order that contradicts his statements,
Trombi admitted he never read it.
“I received the emails that contained the order. I ashamedly never opened them
up and read them,” said Trombi, whose errors were also acknowledged by the
sheriff’s lawyers in court filings.
The hearing marks the second time that a sheriff’s official has been ordered to
court for inaccurately summarizing findings of Snow, who last week chided Arpaio
and Chief Deputy Jerry Sheridan for similar errors.
Arpaio, who did not attend Thursday’s hearing, declined to comment. Sheridan
was present but did not speak.
Arpaio has vigorously denied that his agency racially profiles people and has
appealed Snow’s ruling.
The judge is requiring Arpaio’s office to install video cameras in hundreds of
patrol vehicles, set up a seven-person team of sheriff’s employees to help
implement the judge’s orders, and carry out additional training to ensure
officers aren’t making unconstitutional traffic stops.
Snow said he has grave concerns about who will provide the training, especially
after seeing a recent campaign fundraising email for Arpaio in which the sheriff
says he was “wrongfully accused of racial profiling.”
“If he’s out there saying my order is illegitimate and makes wrongful
accusations, would you expect his officers to ignore what he says?” Snow said.
As a result, Snow ordered that a court-appointed monitor tasked with approving
training also approve training instructors. He requested that lawyers for the
Sheriff’s Office submit a training schedule within seven days, and the
plaintiff’s attorneys would have a week to respond. The judge also announced he
would take a hands-on role at a training session, too.
“I’m going to show up unannounced and make sure there isn’t any baloney going
on,” Snow said.
Last week, Snow criticized Arpaio and Sheridan for trivializing and
mischaracterizing his ruling during an Oct. 18 training session with
rank-and-file officers. The judge said a video of the training session appears
to suggest to deputies that they weren’t obliged to make their best efforts to
remedy the agency’s constitutional violations.
Sheridan had apologized for the errors.
In response, Snow ordered lawyers on both sides to accurately summarize the
judge’s rulings and put those statements in a letter that Arpaio and Sheridan
will sign and give to all sheriff’s employees.