NPR Story
1:25 pm
Fri September 20, 2013

Arpaio, Women's Group Clash Over Outreach Effort

The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has long had a fraught relationship with Latinos, and it has come to head again after reports that a women's group rejected the agency's attempt at outreach.

The sheriff's office had paid the Hispanic Women's Corporation $800 for a booth at the group's upcoming annual conference in Phoenix. But according to MCSO, that money was returned with the message that its deputies and staff wouldn't be welcomed at this year's event.

"Our intention in attending was to promote a new culture within the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office that has as its root the core belief that law enforcement and the community it serves should have a strong bond of trust that makes for safer common areas and neighborhoods," said James Estrada, MCSO's director of community outreach.

This statement, issued through a press release, does not come in a vacuum. The sheriff's office has been tangled in a lawsuit that successfully claimed MCSO discriminates against Latinos. A pending court order could mandate that MCSO engage in outreach with the Latino community, but this latest conflict shows how difficult it may be for the agency to heal the relationship with Latinos, as the Arizona Republic points out.

The Hispanic Women's Corporation did not respond immediately to a request for comment. But its leaders have been critical of Arpaio's tactics.

MCSO has attended the conference before, but it was prior to controversies in Arizona over immigration policy and racial profiling.

The sheriff's office release said it planned on explaining job opportunities to Latinas attending the conference, and sending the message that "MCSO empowers women."

The agency says 23 percent of its 3,200 employees are Latino, but gave no indication of how many of those are women. MCSO's workforce still lags behind county demographics. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 30 percent of Maricopa County's population identifies as Hispanic or Latino.

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