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Judge rejects new policing plan by Penzone in profiling case


PHOENIX (AP) — A federal judge has rejected Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone’s bid to replace a plan to remedy his agency’s longstanding biased treatment of Latinos during traffic stops with a new plan that instead emphasizes community policing.

The ruling came Monday in a lawsuit in which sheriff’s deputies were found in 2013 to have racially profiled Latinos during immigration crackdowns conducted by Penzone’s predecessor, Joe Arpaio.

Penzone’s attorney argued the sheriff was not trying to abandon the current plan’s goals and instead wanted to build trust within the Latino community by having officers listen to concerns about law enforcement and issues affecting the quality of life.

Judge Murray Snow said Penzone’s goal was laudable, but concluded the sheriff’s proposal lacked the specifics, scope and long-term goals of the original plan.

The current plan includes using an alert system to help supervisors identify problematic behavior by officers and offering training to confront implicit bias and increase cultural competency within the sheriff’s office.

During the development of Penzone’s replacement proposal, the sheriff’s office failed to adequately consult with a community advisory board set up to help improve trust in the sheriff’s office, Snow wrote.

The sheriff’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday’s ruling.

The agency has been dogged for years by problems with biased policing. Its latest publicly available traffic stop analysis concluded Hispanic drivers are more likely to be searched and arrested by sheriff’s deputies than white drivers.

The sheriff’s office will remain under court supervision while it tries to remedy the constitutional violations found in the profiling verdict. It has not yet been deemed totally in compliance with court-ordered overhauls of its traffic patrol and internal affairs operations.

The agency has been deemed 97% compliant in the first phase of its traffic-operations overhaul and 75% compliant on the second phase. It’s at 90% or above in both phases of the internal-affairs overhaul.

Fear of being unfairly scrutinized as part of the court-ordered overhauls has led sheriff’s deputies to make 52% fewer traffic stops from 2015 through 2018, though Penzone’s office says the number of stops increased in recent months.

The taxpayer bill from the 11-year-old profiling case is expected to reach $150 million by the summer of 2020. The spending is expected to continue until the sheriff’s office is fully compliant for three straight years.

On Monday, Snow also transferred control of community meetings aimed at rebuilding confidence in the sheriff’s office from Penzone to an official who monitors the agency on behalf of the court.

The change was made after Snow raised questions about how Penzone’s office was conducting the meetings, such as scheduling a recent gathering during a weekday morning, rather than holding it in the evenings when more people might be available. The sheriff’s office later moved the start time to the evening.

It marked the second time in the profiling case that responsibility for the community meetings was transferred from the sheriff’s office to the court monitor.

Five years ago, the monitor took over that duty after the sheriff’s office, under Arpaio’s leadership, opposed having to hold the meetings. At the time, the agency was criticized for scheduling the meetings at times and locations where the public was not as likely to attend.


Follow Jacques Billeaud at www.twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud.

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