PHOENIX -- The U.S. Department of Justice has determined the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has been racially profiling and discriminating against Hispanics. It also found a pattern of retaliation against Sheriff Joe Arpaio's critics.
Outgoing Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon was one of those and he wrote the initial letter asking the DOJ to investigate.
“Those findings from the Justice Department are really beyond even what I thought was going on,” Gordon said of the report.
Gordon and many other public officials were scared in 2008.
“It was hard for people to stand up and legitimately so,” he said.
Arpaio conducted immigration raids and made arrests in the city on a regular basis. Gordon said the Phoenix Police Department was never notified. Anyone who questioned Arpaio faced a potential investigation and arrest.
“I received, and still do, death threats as a result of what he's publicized,” Gordon said.
By March of that year, Gordon’s fear was giving way to frustration. He said he was at Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church when he decided he had to say something. He said a mother came to him a story of her teenage son, pulled over by sheriff's deputies, arrested and deported even though he came to the United States as an infant.
“He didn't have any relatives there,” Gordon said. “He didn't have any contacts, and this mother lost her son. That to me was the last straw. And what I've always said is, while I've paid a significant price, I regret I didn't stand up earlier.”
It was Gordon who wrote the formal letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, asking for an investigation into civil rights violations.
“While he'll argue this is a political agenda,” he said of Arpaio, "this started under President Bush.”
Gordon says after more than three years and dozens of raids, he is glad the DOJ is taking a serious look at the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, even though he often wondered if it would lead to anything.
“There is no glee in what I’m saying because so many people have suffered,” he said. “If I was the sheriff I would be worried on the criminal side too.”