PHOENIX -- A federal judge has ruled that the office of America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff systematically racially profiled Latinos in its trademark immigration patrols.
The decision Friday by U.S. District Judge Murray Snow marks the first finding by a court that Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office racially profiles people.
It also backs up allegations made by critics that Arpaio's officers rely on race in their immigration enforcement. Snow also ruled Arpaio's deputies unreasonably prolonged the detentions of people who were pulled over.
A small group of Latinos alleged deputies pulled over some vehicles only to make immigration status checks.
Arpaio has denied the allegations. Cecillia D. Wang, director of the ACLU Immigrants' Right Project, called the ruling a "great day for all the people of Maricopa County."