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ASU Study Reveals Patterns Of Racially Biased Policing At MCSO

Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.
(Photo courtesy of MCSO Facebook)
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office.

A new Arizona State University studyon traffic stops by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office found patterns of racially discriminatory policing.

The data is from between July 2014 and June 2015. It was contracted by MCSO, and will serve as the baseline for measuring the agency as it works to comply with court orders to end racial profiling.
The study, which is based on an analysis of about 28,000 deputy-initiated traffic stops, concluded that about 13 percent of deputies were twice as likely as their colleagues to stop Hispanics and African Americans. It also found evidence of racial bias in connection with the likelihood of searches and arrests.

But the data did not reveal a universal pattern of racially biased policing at the agency, said Dr. Dani Wallace, an associate professor at ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“This report demonstrates that there (are) problematic deputies,” Wallace said. “But I’m unwilling to necessarily say that it’s a(n) organization-wide problem.”

Wallace led the team that conducted the study, and she said an upcoming supplement will look at MCSO’s overall culture.
Evidence of racial profiling is extremely concerning, said MCSO Lt. Greg Lugo. The agency has taken action on all recommendations outlined in the study, including sending individual reports to supervisors of every deputy who was analyzed, Lugo said.

“Because that type of activity, any type of racial profiling or racial bias, is not only unlawful but unacceptable,” Lugo said.

MCSO received preliminary results of the study months ago and has been repeatedly asked to follow up, said attorney Cecillia Wang, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Immigrant Rights’ Project. Wang represents the plaintiff in the racial profiling lawsuit against MCSO.

“Are you doing anything to figure out what the problem is, and to root it out and make sure that people’s civil rights are being respected in this county?” Wang said she’s asked MCSO. “And the Sheriff’s Office has not been responsive.”

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to include comments from MCSO and the ACLU.

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.