After the Department of Justice accused Sheriff Joe Arpaio of engaging in “unconstitutional policing” by unfairly targeting Hispanics and Latinos for detention and arrest and retaliating against those who complain, it seems that the Arizona Sheriff and the U.S. Justice Department are ready to settle the allegations of discrimination, whether it will be in or out of court is yet to be determined. In a letter delivered to Arapio’s lawyers, Deputy Assistant U.S. Attorney General Roy Austin wrote that Arpaio’s position on resolving the discrimination federal investigators discovered in his office “makes litigation inevitable in the very near term.” However, if the Sheriff shows to actually be cooperative it may not even get to that point. Attorneys for the two sides are scheduled to meet in Phoenix in a first attempt to come to an agreement on how to remedy the discrimination federal investigators say they found in the Sheriff’s Office. The Justice Department had given the Sheriff’s Office 60 days to decide whether Arpaio’s agency would cooperate with federal officials to find remedies to discrimination, which could include increased training and oversight, with the other option being a long and costly court battle against the Arizona agency. Although the Sheriff questioned the validity of the Justice Department’s report, they still promised to cooperate with federal officials while also demanding they produce the documents with which they based their allegations. Arpaio’s lawyers have supposedly responded in an e-mail with a strong desire to meet with the Justice Department and begin work on an agreeable way to resolve the discrimination claims without going to court. But if the matter is settled in court, the Sheriff’s Office would likely resolve as many issues as possible beforehand. “Litigation is only a threat if you’ve never done it before. Sometimes it’s a way to get actual truth. It is our legal system, it’s something that sits at the very foundation of our legal system and it’s something the Department of Justice does all the time so it’s not like there’s some terrible stigma attached to it. We want to move forward and make changes as necessary,” said Arpaio’s lawyers. William Yeomans, a law professor at American University and a veteran of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said that the sheriff’s position in the investigation and results being politically motivated was not surprising, but that it does not prevent attorneys from both sides from conducting productive negotiations. Ultimately, Sheriff Arpaio will have to make some serious changes in behavior while also changing the direction in which his office functions.
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