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News (Media Awareness Project) - Canada: RCMP Backs Off Arizona Training
Title:Canada: RCMP Backs Off Arizona Training
Published On:2012-01-31
Source:Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Fetched On:2012-02-02 06:01:25

Scathing Rights Report in U.S. Prompts Move

The RCMP has scrapped plans to send hundreds of officers to Arizona
for training in recognizing and testing drug-impaired drivers after
learning that the sheriff's office they had partnered with has been
accused of engaging in "unconstitutional policing."

A scathing U.S. Department of Justice report recently concluded that
the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office in Phoenix engages in racial
profiling of Latinos, unlawfully stops and arrests Latinos and
unlawfully retaliates against individuals who criticize the force.

An RCMP official stressed Monday that at no time were Maricopa County
sheriff's officers going to be involved in teaching the Canadians and
that the only role of the sheriff's office's was to provide access to
people in custody at a remand centre who could be evaluated for

Still, the seriousness of the allegations against the sheriff's
office prompted the RCMP to cancel its training sessions in Arizona,
said Insp. Allan Lucier.

"It was almost immediate after having read the report that this would
not be a facility that we would associate ourselves with," he said.
"That just didn't meet our test."

Officer Christopher Hegstrom, a spokesman for the sheriff's office -
whose commander, Joe Arpaio, likes to call himself "America's
toughest sheriff" and has received a lot of attention for his tough
approach to illegal immigration - said Monday in a statement that the
accusations against the force are unproven and overstated by a
"sensationalistic press, and so far represent mere words uttered by
administration officials in Washington, D.C., who refuse to provide
any proof that the allegations may have any basis in fact.".

David Eby, executive director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties
Association, which notified the RC-MP about the allegations against
the sheriff's office last Wednesday, said the RCMP made the right
call to abandon its training in Arizona. He urged the Mounties to
find a "made-in-Canada" solution and said Canadian police agencies
should think twice about sending officers south of the border for any
type of training.

"The U.S. has a different policing context. . There's a different
legal environment, different constitutional norms," he said.

In a Dec. 15 letter to the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, the U.S.
Department of Justice's civil rights division said its investigation
of the force uncovered a "chronic culture of disregard for basic
legal and constitutional obligations."

Among the department's allegations:

- - Latino drivers are four to nine times more likely to be pulled over
than non-Latino drivers in that county;

- - detention officers punish Lat-ino inmates who don't follow commands
given in English and make them sign forms in English without
translation assistance;

- - and the sheriff's office retaliates against individuals who
criticize the force, including arresting them without cause.
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