Federal monitor overseeing the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office hasn’t been to Phoenix since 2020

Arizona’s Family Investigates found that the monitor hasn’t been in Phoenix since 2020, yet the county is spending thousands each month on office space.
Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 6:49 PM MST|Updated: Sep. 26, 2023 at 10:29 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The repercussions from a federal lawsuit against the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office continue. It stems from the department’s racial profiling practices under former Sheriff Joe Arpaio. But over the last 15 years, it’s cost taxpayers nearly $240 million. Some of that was spent on a court-appointed monitor. Arizona’s Family Investigates found that the monitor hasn’t been in Phoenix since 2020, yet the county is spending thousands of dollars each month on office space.

The monitor’s name is Robert Warshaw. The federal judge overseeing the case, Murray Snow, appointed him to that post in 2014. Since then, records show he’s been paid millions.

In the months following his hiring, Warshaw held meetings across the county. “The case is over and we’re here to monitor the agency’s compliance,” he told a meeting in Phoenix back in March 2015.

That meant he and his team would be overseeing MCSO, helping them develop practices that would end racial profiling. “This is an experienced monitoring team,” he explained. To keep the court and public updated on developments, they release reports four times a year.

In the latest one, Arizona’s Family Investigates found the team’s last in-person site visit was in January 2020. Since then, they’ve been done remotely, the monitor writing “because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they have been “unable to travel.” However, there have been no restrictions on domestic travel due to COVID-19.

Yet the county continues to pay for a 3,200-square-foot suite in an office building in downtown Phoenix. According to the lease agreement, over the last year alone, it’s cost taxpayers $97,000.

And the bills keep coming in. The county charged $210,000 for 700 hours of work in July—a total of $2.7 million on the monitor and related expenses this year alone. “While it’s easy to quantify what the monitor costs, it’s much harder to quantify what the monitor saves,” Jonathan Smith, a former deputy assistant attorney general with the U.S. Justice Department, said.

Smith now works under monitors like Warshaw to help implement changes within police departments. “It’s hard to know what to make of the monitor himself not being there when we don’t know what the rest of the team has been doing,” Smith explained.

He said that the team usually consists of 15-20 people. But the monitor, MCSO, and the county couldn’t tell us how or even if they’re using that office space. “When you look at how much the monitor is being paid, though, some might look at that as an incentive for them to keep this going for a longer period of time, to keep that money coming in?” asked Arizona’s Family Investigates’ Amy Cutler. “Sure, I don’t know the details of this monitor’s payment, but many monitors are working at rates far below what they, most monitor’s work at law firms and they are working at rates far below what they would charge other clients,” Smith responded.

Smith stresses many of the costs associated with coming into compliance are things the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office should have already been doing. Another component of this is community meetings, which have been held virtually since 2020. In the latest report, Warshaw said his team plans to return to in-person site visits in October.

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