In Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio, a federal court found that the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), under former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, systematically violated the rights of Latinos, subjecting them to racial profiling and other illegal actions. Because of these unconstitutional practices, MCSO is currently under oversight by a Federal Court appointed Monitor and the Office is committed to achieving full and effective compliance with the court orders stemming from this case.

Sheriff Penzone has assumed the responsibility for compliance with the court orders, now retitled Manuel de Jesus Ortega Melendres v. Penzone. Since becoming Sheriff, Sheriff Penzone has taken strides to identify individuals within MCSO to lead based on a foundation of ethics, standards, and skills. Sheriff Penzone has also made structural changes within the Sheriff’s Office that emphasize his position of making MCSO a highly professional organization and a leader in law enforcement.

Compliance Numbers

Table: Quarterly Compliance Chart

Compliance with the court mandated reforms has been and will continue to be a top priority for Sheriff Penzone. He believes that gaining “full and effective compliance” with the Orders is the fastest way to ensure that MCSO is following the current best police practices and providing the most professional services to everyone in our community. He is equally committed to rebuilding trust with the Latino community, recognizing the damage inflicted upon the community.

Court Implementation Division (CID)

The Court Implementation Division was created at the direction of the First Supplemental Court Order. CID consists of one (1) captain, one (1) lieutenant, three (3) sergeants, two (2) deputy sheriffs, one management analyst, one management assistant, and two (2) administrative civilians. It serves as a central conduit of information between the Court appointed Monitor and all parts of MCSO. It also works closely with all parties involved in the Melendres lawsuit to enhance communication and move forward in bringing MCSO into compliance with the Court ordered reforms.

Historical Overview

In December 2007, Latino drivers filed a lawsuit against the MCSO and former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, alleging that MCSO engaged in a custom, policy, and practice of racially profiling Latinos, and a policy of unconstitutionally stopping persons without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, in violation of their Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights.

Former Sheriff Arpaio, in his desire to make MCSO a "full-fledged anti-illegal immigration agency,” created an agency where race, and not criminality, served as a basis to target Latinos. Despite the fact that the considerable majority of Latinos in Maricopa County were legal residents of the United States, MCSO used race and Hispanic ancestry as a pretext to investigate immigration violations.

MCSO would conduct a number of operations primarily targeting Latinos using the Human Smuggling Unit (HSU), created in 2006, and the 287(g) agreement with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that allowed certain deputies to act as immigration agents. Some were small scale operations focused on day laborers, as MCSO equated being a Hispanic or Mexican day laborer with being an undocumented immigrant. MCSO also conducted large “saturation patrols” into predominately Latino communities. These saturation patrols used traffic enforcement to check the immigration status of Latinos stopped for minor traffic offenses. Despite the subsequent revocation by the federal government of the 287(g) agreement, MCSO continued to enforce immigration law.

On May 24, 2013, the Court ruled in favor of the Latino community, finding that MCSO’s policies and procedures institutionalized the illegal consideration of race as a factor in its policing practices. The Court ruled that MCSO must stop its immigration enforcement and cannot use Hispanic ancestry as a factor in making law enforcement decisions as it violates the 4th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. MCSO was also prohibited from extending traffic stops for the purpose of investigating immigration status or calling ICE.

The court issued an order detailing the actions required by MCSO to come into compliance and appointed an independent monitor to oversee the process.

Despite the Court’s order, racial profiling of Latinos continued. Former Sheriff Arpaio persistently and publicly violated the judge’s order. The court found that MCSO deputies demonstrated an intention to violate and manipulate the laws and policies regulating their conduct as they pertained to be fair, equitable, and impartial with respect to the Latino community. Because former Sheriff Arpaio and other MCSO deputies repeatedly violated the Judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos, the Judge issued the Second Supplemental Court Order, which required additional oversight and reforms for MCSO.

In November 2016, the people voted Joe Arpaio out of office and elected Paul Penzone as the new Maricopa County Sheriff. Sheriff Penzone replaced nearly all of MCSO executive command staff. He created a new Community Outreach Division (COrD), which began working diligently to engage with the community and rebuild broken relationships between the community and MCSO. Since taking office, the Sheriff and MCSO staff have attended over 450 community meetings and events.

Advisory Boards
  • The Community Advisory Board (CAB) is an independent 5-member board created by the Court in Melendres. The CAB meets regularly with MCSO and advises them on issues related to the Latino community and compliance with the court orders. They are also tasked with facilitating regular dialogue between the MCSO and community leaders. In addition, the CAB meets at least 3 times a year to listen to the affected community and their experiences with MCSO. The CAB makes reasonable efforts to address any concerns expressed by the community.
  • Additional community advisory boards were created at the direction of Sheriff Penzone. These boards advise the Sheriff on important matters that affect the community and serve as a voice to and for the communities they represent:
    • SPEAR – Sheriff Penzone’s Executive Advisory Review. SPEAR is made up of diverse community members from all across the County. To date, they have advised on Tent City and the Posse.
    • The Hispanic Advisory Board is made up of Dreamers, business people, activists, educators, and community leaders.
    • The Sheriff also formed an African American Advisory Board and an LGBTQ Advisory Board.

MCSO has dedicated unprecedented financial and personnel resources to advance the organization towards compliance and achieve its goal of “full and effective compliance.” MCSO’s path to compliance is a truly collaborative effort among MCSO, the Monitor, and the attorneys representing the Plaintiffs and the Department of Justice.