An Arizona county is expected to pay almost $150 million over former Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s racial profiling case

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces newly launched program aimed at providing security around schools in Anthem, Arizona, Jan. 9, 2013.

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Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio announces newly launched program aimed at providing security around schools in Anthem, Arizona, Jan. 9, 2013.
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Reuters/Laura Segall

  • Former Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio will cost Maricopa County taxpayers as much as $150 million in attorney and compliance costs linked to a racial profiling lawsuit against him, according to The Associated Press.
  • Arpaio, a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, is known for illegally detaining and racially profiling Latino immigrants during his 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County.
  • He was pardoned by President Trump after being convicted of criminal contempt in July 2017 for ignoring a 2011 court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants.
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Joe Arpaio, the controversial former Arizona sheriff pardoned by President Donald Trump in 2017, will cost Maricopa County taxpayers as much as $150 million in attorney and compliance costs linked to a racial profiling lawsuit against him, The Associated Press reported.

Arpaio, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff” in America and a staunch opponent of illegal immigration, is known for illegally detaining and racially profiling Latino immigrants during his 24 years as sheriff of Maricopa County. He established a reputation for brutal practices against inmates – forcing prisoners under his watch to wear pink underwear, eat food that some described as inedible, and endure intolerable heat in the summer.

He was convicted of criminal contempt in July 2017 for ignoring a 2011 court order to stop detaining suspected undocumented immigrants and faced up to six months in jail for the misdemeanor crime. “Not only did Defendant abdicate responsibility, he announced to the world and to his subordinates that he was going to continue business as usual no matter who said otherwise,” United States District Judge Susan Bolton wrote at the time.

A month later, Arpaio was pardoned by the president, setting off a political firestorm that drew fierce criticism from civil rights groups. The sheriff had been an early and vocal Trump supporter throughout his presidential campaign.

Now, taxpayers must come up with the costs related to Arpaio’s racial profiling case. Officials told The Associated Press that taxpayers have already paid $11.5 million in costs since the lawsuit against Arpaio was first filed in 2007, and that by the summer of 2020 those costs could reach up to $150 million.

Compliance has improved since Sheriff Paul Penzone took over in 2017, but the sheriff’s office has still not been found to be fully compliant with court-ordered overhauls of traffic patrol and internal affairs operations, The Associated Press reported.

The $150 million bill will help foot the legal fees on both sides of Arpaio’s lawsuit, as well as pay for improvements within the sheriff’s office, including hiring more than 170 new employees, retraining officers on how to make constitutional stops, and the creation of a system to better flag officers’ problematic behavior.