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Costs to rise in Arizona profiling lawsuit against former Sheriff Joe Arpaio

(AP File Photo)

PHOENIX — A racial profiling case involving former Sheriff Joe Arpaio that has already cost taxpayers in metropolitan Phoenix nearly $66 million over the last nine years will be getting more expensive.

Officials gave preliminary approval Monday to $26 million in additional spending to cover the costs of complying with a court-ordered overhaul of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, which in 2013 was found to have found Latinos were profiled during the former sheriff’s immigration patrols.

The overhaul was expanded last year when a judge concluded Arpaio had defied an order to stop the patrols. That led the judge to order changes to the agency’s internal affairs investigations, which the judge said had been manipulated to shield sheriff’s officials from accountability over such issues as who was responsible for violating the order.

Over the years, the costs have included $16.7 million in legal fees for lawyers on both sides, paying a team of outsiders $8.9 million to monitor the sheriff’s office on behalf of the judge, conducting officer training to guard against future profiling and setting up an alert system to spot problematic behavior by sheriff’s deputies.

The $26 million in costs in the coming year will center largely on adding officers to work on the effort to comply with the overhaul. The employee costs include regular pay, overtime and retirement benefits.

The county also will have to pay outsiders to monitor the sheriff’s office on the court’s behalf, redo internal-affairs investigations that were deemed inadequate and impose discipline on officers for misconduct.

County Supervisor Steve Gallardo, a longtime critic of Arpaio’s immigration enforcement, said the spending should serve as a lesson to people who advocate for local police officers to get into immigration enforcement.

“There are unintended consequences, and those unintended consequences are costly,” Gallardo said.

Sheriff Paul Penzone, who unseated Arpaio last year, vowed that compliance with the court orders was one of his top priorities. Last week he said his office had cut costs in the profiling case by getting rid of the outside law firms used by Arpaio and using attorneys already employed by the county.

Penzone said he has worked hard since taking office in January to improve his agency’s relations with its adversaries in the profiling lawsuit and with the staff monitoring the sheriff’s office.

Arpaio had been criticized for dragging his feet in complying with the orders.

The spending was expected to continue until the sheriff’s office was in full compliance for three straight years with court-ordered changes.

The sheriff’s office, which was ordered to start making the changes in October 2013, was deemed 32 percent compliant with the first phase of the overhaul and 48 percent compliant in phase two. Those numbers were from a report measuring the
agency’s progress during the last quarter of 2016.

Taxpayers were not covering any of Arpaio’s legal costs in defending himself against a criminal contempt-of-court charge for prolonging his patrols. Arpaio, who goes on trial in late June, hasn’t specified how he was paying for those costs, but he has set up a legal defense fund for himself.

In addition to the costs of the profiling case, the county has had to pay an additional $82 million in legal costs during Arpaio’s 24-year tenure.

That figure included judgments, settlements and legal fees involving things such as lawsuits over jail deaths and the lawman’s failed investigations of political enemies.

County officials were scheduled to make a final vote on the funding in the profiling case June 19.

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