POLITICS
11/08/2012 04:24 pm ET

Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio Says He Wants Peace With Latinos After Winning Reelection

Sheriff Joe Arpaio has long tangled with Hispanics in Arizona over his harsh immigration policies, but after winning reelection this week, he apparently wants to sit down with them and clear any issues.

"I would hope to get together with the Latino community, if I could ever have them talk to me without screaming and threatening me," the Maricopa County, Ariz., sheriff told supporters on Tuesday night, according to CNN. "So I hope to get together with the community and try to explain what we do, so that's going to be one of my missions coming up."

Arpaio also told Fox 5, "I'd like to get closer to the Latino community, if that could ever happen to try to explain what we do and get better relationships."

He has come under national attention for tough policies that immigrants and Hispanic rights advocates say discriminate against them. As The New York Times reported, in this year alone, "[Arpaio] has been on trial over allegations of civil rights violations against Latinos, who accused him of targeting them in raids and traffic stops."

Arpaio, a Republican who supported former nominee Mitt Romney's candidacy, has defended his policies by saying he's only enforcing state and federal immigration laws that are already on the books.

Arpaio was reelected on Tuesday night after raising more than $8 million to defeat his challenger, former Phoenix police sergeant Paul Penzone. "I will continue to enforce all the laws, including illegal immigration," Arpaio said, according to Bloomberg News. "Nothing changes."

Last December, the U.S. Justice Department said the sheriff's office (MCSO) "engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional policing" and had "a chronic culture of disregard for basic legal and constitutional obligations."

The department's civil rights division said that in the county's jails, "detention officers direct racial slurs at Latino inmates. Detention officers also insult or ignore Latino inmates when they attempt to communicate in Spanish." It added, "Sheriff Arpaio's own actions have helped nurture MCSO's culture of bias."

The DOJ's investigation found that Latino drivers in Maricopa were statistically "four to nine times more likely to be stopped than similarly situated non-Latino drivers."

According to a New Yorker profile, Arpaio -- known as "America's Toughest Sheriff" -- oversees a county that, including Phoenix, "covers more than nine thousand square miles, and has a population of nearly four million. Joe Arpaio has been sheriff there since 1993. He has four thousand employees, three thousand volunteer posse members, and an overworked media-relations unit of five."

Follow Daniel Lippman on Twitter @dlippman

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