Police Practices Attorney – ACLU of Arizona

For nine years, the ACLU has been litigating Ortega Melendres v. Arpaio (now Ortega Melendres v. Penzone), which successfully challenged a pattern of unlawful racial profiling by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his agency during immigration sweeps and traffic stops.  After two trials, the case is now at a critical juncture. We are working with new Sheriff Paul Penzone to implement more than 200 court-ordered reforms intended to eliminate racially biased policing practices, improve the agency’s internal review and disciplinary process, , and ensure the agency’s accountability to the community following decades of broken trust. While the extensive litigation to obtain these structural reforms is drawing to a close, there is much more work to be done to ensure that the litigation victories translate into lasting change. As of December 2016 (the last period for which reporting is completed), the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is in compliance with only 32 percent of phase 1 reforms, which encompass policy, procedure, and training changes, and only 48 percent of phase 2 reforms, which measure the agency’s operational implementation of changes.  Court oversight in this case will continue for three years after MCSO comes into full compliance with the ordered reforms.

MCSO’s immigration enforcement practices over the past decade served as a model for SB1070, Arizona’s racial profiling law, which today remains largely in effect, despite multiple legal challenges.  Given that MCSO’s practices have been found unconstitutional, and that other courts have made clear that police may not detain people based on suspected immigration status, national origin, or race alone, the ACLU of Arizona is prioritizing its police practices work over the next three years, particularly as it relates to immigration enforcement practices of local police departments.  We are focusing our efforts on holding agencies who engage in racial profiling accountable, just as Sheriff Arpaio was held accountable.

Immigrants’ rights is one of four strategic priority areas for the ACLU of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, public interest organization dedicated to the defense and expansion of civil liberties and civil rights in Arizona.  Our three other priority areas are criminal justice, educational equity, and LGBT equality.  The ACLU of Arizona has 16 staff members, 23 board members, approximately 19,000 members, and an annual budget of $2,074,070, which includes a significant influx of resources to hire several new positions in FYE 2018. Additional information about our work can be found at www.acluaz.org. For more on the Ortega Melendres case visit https://www.acluaz.org/en/campaigns/changing-mcso.

The Position

The ACLU Foundation of Arizona is seeking an experienced attorney, with substantial experience in the areas of police reform, compliance, and litigation, for a full-time Police Practices Attorney position focused on monitoring and ensuring the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office’s compliance with the ordered injunctive relief in Ortega Melendres v. Penzone. Under the supervision of our Legal Director, the Police Practices Attorney will play a lead role in compliance-related proceedings, including reviewing and providing input on proposed policy and procedure changes, providing input on implementation of reforms, participating in meetings with all levels of personnel at MCSO, including command-level staff, liaising with the court-appointed Monitor and community representatives, and representing the legal team in court status conferences and other hearings. The Police Practices Attorney’s primary duties will be related to compliance proceedings in Ortega Melendres v. Penzone, but will include other work involving local police practices, particularly related to immigration enforcement by state and local law enforcement agencies, as time and capacity permits.  This is a three-year limited duration position, with possibility of extension, based in Phoenix, Arizona.

Roles And Responsibilities

  • Serve as the primary point person and coordinator among plaintiffs’ class counsel for compliance proceedings in Ortega Melendres v. Penzone, working with a team of ACLU attorneys, as well as other public-interest and private-practice attorneys.
  • Review, research, provide input on, and compile team comments on written policies, procedures, training materials, and other documents relevant to the court-ordered reforms, including systems related to individual officer accountability and agency-wide accountability.
  • Analyze incident-related data (including traffic stop data, body-worn camera footage, disciplinary records, misconduct complaints, and investigations) to assess the adequacy of MCSO’s data collection systems and supervisory procedures and to ensure compliance with orders barring racial profiling and contact with immigration enforcement.
  • Advocate for the interests of the plaintiffs’ class in meetings and calls with multiple stakeholders involved in Ortega Melendres v. Penzone, including MCSO representatives, opposing counsel, members of the court-appointed Monitor team, and Department of Justice attorneys.
  • Attend meetings with MCSO command staff and officers at all levels and authority in the agency regarding court-ordered reforms.
  • Communicate with individuals and communities affected by MCSO misconduct regarding MCSO’s compliance with the court-ordered reforms, the status of court and compliance proceedings, and other matters related to MCSO practices.
  • Communicate and coordinate with the court-established Community Advisory Board about MCSO’s compliance with the court-ordered reforms, the status of court and compliance proceedings, and other matters related to MCSO practices, and attend meetings of the Community Advisory Board, as appropriate.
  • Represent the plaintiffs’ class at court status conferences and other court hearings, prepare court filings, and manage other court-related matters connected with compliance proceedings in Ortega Melendres v. Penzone.
  • Attend and represent the ACLU of Arizona and plaintiffs’ class counsel at community meetings hosted by MCSO, the Community Advisory Board, and the court-appointed Monitor team.
  • Represent the ACLU of Arizona as a public spokesperson on issues related to Ortega Melendres v. Penzone and other police practices matters.
  • Other general litigation and investigative duties as assigned, focusing on police practices and immigration enforcement, including factual and legal research, interviewing clients and potential witnesses, preparing correspondence, demand letters, and public records requests, and drafting memoranda, court papers, and other documents.

Experience And Qualifications:

  • J.D. degree and a minimum of five years of combined experience in the areas of police reform, compliance, and litigation, preferably with federal court and civil rights experience. Individuals with more than five years of experience are strongly encouraged to apply. Responsibilities will be commensurate with experience and demonstrated skill level.
  • Experience in litigation or advocacy related to policing is preferred.
  • Member of the State Bar of Arizona or eligible for admission under Arizona Supreme Court Rule 38(f).
  • A demonstrated commitment to civil liberties, immigrants’ rights, public interest law, and the mission and goals of the ACLU.
  • Ability to manage complex cases, with large volumes of document review, and a demonstrated ability to engage in complex legal and factual analysis.
  • A demonstrated ability to work both independently and within a team. Ability to foster and contribute to a collaborative team environment is essential.
  • Excellent legal research and writing skills.
  • Demonstrated ability to perform complex legal analytical work.
  • Strong interpersonal skills, including ability to work cooperatively on a variety of projects with lawyers, other staff members, and diverse community organizations.
  • Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written.
  • Self-motivated, diligent, and able to meet strict deadlines while under pressure.


The ACLU-AZ offers a generous and comprehensive compensation and benefits package, commensurate with experience, and competitive with public interest legal salaries.  Benefits include three weeks paid vacation; 100%-employer paid medical and dental insurance, life and long-term disability insurance; 401(k); and twelve paid holidays.

To Apply:

Send a cover letter, CV, list of three professional references, and a writing sample (no more than 5 pages, double-spaced, which may be an excerpt from a brief) to: Gloria Torres, Paralegal, ACLU Foundation of Arizona, Re: Police Practices Attorney, P.O. Box 17148, Phoenix, AZ 85011 or email to: gtorres@acluaz.org. Please list “Police Practices Attorney” in the subject line. Applications accepted until position is filled. Please indicate in your cover letter where you found this listing.

The ACLU is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and encourages women, people of color, persons with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals to apply.

The ACLU of Arizona comprises two separate corporate entities, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the ACLU Foundation of Arizona. Both the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and the ACLU Foundation of Arizona have the same overall mission, and share office space and employees. The ACLU has two separate corporate entities in order to do a broad range of work to protect civil liberties.

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