Deputies accused of ethnic profiling
Arizona Republic
Jan. 23, 2008

Zach Fowle

A Phoenix man has accused the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office of ethnic profiling after he was arrested during a crackdown on crime in east Phoenix.

Israel Correa, 28, a Latino activist and one-time candidate for Maryvale justice of the peace, was arrested Friday when his vehicle was stopped near 36th Street and Thomas Road.

Correa believes he was targeted for his ethnicity, but an MCSO report says he was pulled over because his car's headlights didn't work.

According to the report, a deputy asked for Correa's identification, and Correa replied that he had none. The report says that Correa then demanded an explanation of why he was pulled over and asked if the deputy was going to deport him.

When Correa again did not show ID, the deputy placed him in handcuffs. By the time he showed his driver's license, it was too late.

Correa was booked into jail on suspicion of failure to provide identification.

While in jail, Correa said, he was taunted by Sheriff's Office personnel because of his Spanish accent. He said he was set to be released at 6 a.m. but was told he could not leave because Immigration and Customs Enforcement personnel had put a hold on him; they suspected he was an illegal immigrant. It wasn't until five hours later, after numerous calls from Correa's friends and family vouching for his legal status, he said, that he was released.

Correa said he has obtained a lawyer. However, the Sheriff's Office stands by Correa's arrest.

"What I think here is you have an individual who wants to draw attention to the sheriff's operations out there ... and try to taint their work and color it as racist, that they're engaging in racial profiling," Capt. Paul Chagolla said. "There's nothing further from the truth of that, and it's evident in the information we collected from it in numbers of arrests. Of the 24 individuals . . . arrested in the first hours of the operation, only five were illegal immigrants and the rest were U.S. citizens that violated the law."