Today a lawsuit was filed by the Justice Department against Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who, calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff.”

He is accused of a “pattern of unlawful discrimination” targeting Latinos in his campaign to crack down on illegal immigration.

I just happened to be in Arizona at an outdoor festival where Sheriff Joe Arpaio was selling and signing Sheriff Joe’s World Famous Pink Boxers, capitalizing on his infamous use of pink underwear with jailhouse inmates.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

From Sheriff Joe’s website:

“Another program Arpaio is very well-known for is the pink under shorts he makes all inmates wear. Years ago, when the Sheriff learned that inmates were stealing jailhouse white boxers, Arpaio had all inmate underwear dyed pink for better inventory control. The same is true for the Sheriff’s handcuffs. When they started disappearing, he ordered pink handcuffs as a replacement. And later, when the Sheriff learned the calming, psychological effects of the color pink—sheets, towels, socks— everything inmates wear, except for the old-fashioned black and white striped uniform, were dyed pink.”

From The New York Times:
By Fernanda Santos and Charles Savage

“In a 32-page complaint, the Justice Department contends that he and his deputies waged a campaign against illegal immigration — through sweeps of homes and workplaces, and in traffic stops and jail practices — aimed at Latinos, regardless of status or citizenship.”

Sheriff Arpaio also sought to silence his opponents — lawyers, judges and private citizens — through retaliation, at times filing lawsuits against them that were later found to be baseless, the complaint says.

“At its core, this is an abuse-of-power case involving a sheriff and sheriff’s office that disregarded the Constitution, ignored sound police practices, compromised public safety, and did not hesitate to retaliate against his perceived critics,” Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, said at a news conference here.

Sheriff Arpaio has engaged in an increasingly bitter conflict with the Obama administration, including questioning the authenticity of the president’s birth certificate and portraying the civil rights investigation that preceded the lawsuit as politicized.

In a news conference at his office, Sheriff Arpaio said he would not allow his office to be “taken over by some bureaucrats in the federal government.”

“I will fight this to the bitter end,” he said. He also said: “They’re using me for the Latino vote. I hate to say this is political, but the timing is suspect.”

In what was seen as a pre-emptive move, his office distributed a 17-point plan on Wednesday that promised to “establish and maintain specific bias-free law enforcement and detention” through better policies and training.

“We’re just doing our jobs enforcing illegal immigration laws,” the sheriff said Thursday. “We’re not racist.”

All New York Times coverage on Joe Arpaio

Joe Arpaio on Animal Abuse: “We Have to Take a Tougher Stand”

“Sometimes people accuse me of treating animals better than inmates. I usually respond by saying the animals are victims and as such, deserve to be treated well. Inmates, on the other hand, have broken the law by victimizing others. They deserve to be treated humanely but not delicately.”

Sheriff Joe Arpaio Unveils Obama Birth Probe
Associated Press: Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joe Arpaio says there’s probable cause to believe President Barack Obama’s long-form birth certificate is a computer-generated forgery. The Obama campaign compared the effort to “The X-Files.” (March 1, 2012)