Sheriff Arpaio defends latest crime sweepPosted: Updated:
It's a controversial operation Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio calls a "crime sweep."
In the course of two nights, sheriff's deputies saturated a West Valley neighborhood claiming to prevent crime and take offenders off the streets.
"Some courts want community outreach," Arpaio said. "I just started it."
Arpaio's office has been under fire for allegedly racially profiling when conducting these "sweeps." Just weeks ago, a judge ordered major changes at the office as a result of the allegations.
However, Arpaio went ahead with another sweep this weekend. After the first night, the sheriff's office racked 22 arrests but most of them were minor drug and traffic violations. The MCSO did not have figures on how many of those arrests were minorities.
Despite the negative perception, Arpaio focused his team's efforts in a neighborhood with a high Hispanic population.
"This is the same neighborhood where one of my detention officers was assassinated," Arpaio said.
Arpaio referenced the death of MCSO jail officer, Jorge Vargas as a major reason for saturating the neighborhood with 150 deputies, posse members and reserves Friday and Saturday nights.
CBS 5 News followed some deputies on Saturday night, watching for any questionable techniques deputies may use to target offenders. However, each stop CBS 5 witnessed had clear reasons for it.
For example, deputies pulled over a vehicle without its headlights on. Then, minutes later, another vehicle driven by a Hispanic woman was spotted doing an illegal U-turn directly in front of a law enforcement officer. The woman was cited for driving with a suspended license.
During this confrontation, CBS 5 News asked the woman if she felt "targeted" by the actions of Maricopa County Deputies.
"I think they're just doing their job," she said. "I made a mistake."
However, the crime sweep also sends a different message Sheriff Arpaio said in a one-on-one interview.
"The political aspect is that I'm not backing down," Arpaio said.
The message is pointed to opponents of the sheriff's office as well as the courts mandating more oversight with an appointed monitor. That monitor has not been selected yet.
Despite the legal and community pressures on the sheriff's office, Arpaio says he's going to continue to conduct controversial operations.
"I'm a elected constitutional sheriff," Arpaio said. "No one is going to take away my authority I have under the constitution."
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