Phoenix, Ariz. residents will be out an estimated $21 million in tax dollars to foot the bill for Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling measures.
"It was worth the money, and it was worth the effort," the sheriff said of his neighborhood “sweeps” that target Latinos in a quest to net undocumented residents.
A court ruling found the Maricopa County sheriff’s office guilty of racially profiling Latinos in its traffic and immigration patrols, ordering that taxpayers cover $21.9 million in the next year and a half, as well as an addition $10 million on the part of the county for staff and other costs, to be paid each year starting in 2015.
"That's the price you pay for going out and doing federal immigration work," said county Supervisor and longtime Arpaio critic Mary Rose Wilcox, suggesting that the Sheriff’s office leave the immigration work to federal authorities. Immigration advocates see the tally as proof that local immigration enforcement doesn’t save on costs for immigration and healthcare.
The $21.9 million will not go towards monetary damages for those who filed civil suits claiming they were unfairly profiled in the sheriff’s sweeps, but towards salaries and benefits for employees tasked with changing the county’s policy, as well as an electronic data-entry system to monitor traffic stops.
Arpaio is appealing the ruling, arguing that it is unfair to his deputies and that he was bound to enforce immigration legislation.
“Tent City, pink underwear and green bologna may have made the sheriff popular, but what they did most effectively was distract attention from multimillion settlements with the families of inmates killed or severely injured in Arpaio’s jails,” wrote the Arizona Republic editorial board, calling the latest “bill” on the Sheriff’s “tab” another reason that America’s Toughest Sheriff should be known as America’s Most Expensive.
And the latest distraction from Arpaio’s bitter pill for taxpayers: actor Steven Seagal is teaming up with the Sheriff for a reality show titled "Steven Seagal - Lawman: Maricopa County" (The Lost Episodes). Black belt Seagal helped train Arpaio’s deputies and “posse members” in martial arts, according to an ABC interview, leading to a collaboration for Seagal’s “Lawman” reality show on A&E.
“When people ask if Joe Arpaio's a racist, I'm not going to say I don't think so,” said Seagal, an avid supporter of border protection. “I'm going to say I know he's not a racist. He's not. He doesn't care what nationality you are. He cares if you're a criminal.”