Wednesday, May 9, 2012

It’s Called Law Enforcement for a Reason

By Annoyed With Things

 ABC News is reporting that the Justice Department intends to file a lawsuit against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his department for alleged racial profiling and other civil rights violations.  (  This annoys me because I think the Justice Department has better things to be doing like putting some effort into the backlog of pending ICE deportation cases that need Justice Department review. 

Is Sheriff Joe irascible? Yes.  Is he tough? Yes.  Is he putting the concerns of actual citizens of Maricopa County ahead of those there illegally?  Yes.  Is he taking into account his experience as a law enforcement official with regard who is suspect and who is not? Yes.  All of these affirmative answers do not equate to a civil rights violation.  They equate to aggressive enforcement of the laws already on the books and accountability for people who want a free pass while violating our immigration laws.

Say I was walking my dog in an area known to be a hangout for criminal dog walkers and a police officer rolled up and asked me for my identification – why me – well because I was walking a dog in a known criminal dog walking area and the police have an affirmative obligation to ensure compliance with applicable laws. 

Scenario 1: I could produce a license, credit cards, even a library card with my real name and actual address.  The officer legally detains me while conducting an investigation.  I come up clean and with everything matching, all of which can be done from the patrol car these days.  With no suspicion of committing a crime, the officer hands my license back and says to be careful and have a nice day. 

Scenario 2:  I refuse to show my license or identify myself and sternly demand to know who the heck the officer thinks they are to stop me on a public street.  In Arizona, which has a “Stop and Identify” law ( that requires a person to provide their “true full name”, I could be arrested on the spot.  Faced with this possibility I decide to give “Jonny Law” my name – which comes back clean and directly associated with a singular address.  If not suspected of a crime, I am free to go.

Scenario 3:  I am here illegally and have no documentation and I am using an assumed name.  The officer stops me for walking my dog in known criminal dog walking area, if in Arizona and I refuse to provide a name – I go to jail.  If I give a name that does not match up cleanly with anything in the data base (pssst – because it is not a real name) I will be detained during further investigation.  When my story completely falls apart my immigration status falls into question and off we go to jail.

If you can’t see the fundamental difference between these three scenarios, you are not being intellectually honest.  In all cases I was approached and asked to identify myself because I was in high crime area legally conducting my business but engaging in an activity that could be deemed suspicious because of the very location I was doing it in.  The result of the interaction was totally on me and ranged from a quick check and thank you to me with my hands behind my back in the patrol car.

So now let’s jump to Maricopa County and say I am originally of Mexican descent.  The criminal dog walking area now becomes the few blocks around the Home Depot parking lot known to be a place where illegal immigrant work crews congregate to be picked up for the day’s work.  Dressed in my work clothes and carrying a small cooler, I could be approaching the corner where my buddy is going to pick me up to give me a ride to the job site.  Or I could reasonably be suspected of being an illegal worker approaching the corner where my buddy is going to pick me up to give me a ride to the job site.  Why reasonably – location: a known pick up point for illegal construction crews, appearance: dressed like a worker and yes Hispanic.  

Granted, if I was all a tall, blond, fair skinned person of Norwegian extraction, I would probably not be stopped near the Home Depot.  Is that racist or just the natural outcome of not having an immigration problem with Norway and having one with Mexico?

As far as conditions at the jail go, nobody said it was going to be a picnic.  The goal is to make it miserable while just meeting minimum Constitutional requirements.  Guess what, you don’t like the jail, don’t come back when released.  I am so tired of the “oppressed criminal” crying foul when a tough sheriff holds them accountable for rigidly following the rules.

I am annoyed because the pending suit is clearly an excuse for retaliation because of Sheriff Arpaio’s investigation into irregularities with President Obama’s long form birth certificate and a way for the President to pander to the Hispanic base.  For the record, practical issues with documentation aside, I think President Obama is a U.S. citizen and was duly elected.  What I will not let go by without comment is the systematic undermining of the ICE deportation process, tough enforcement of immigration laws and the focused attack on tough sheriffs like Joe Arpaio.

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