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Justice Dept. sues sheriff over profiling

PHOENIX (AP) -- The U.S. Justice Department sued America's self-proclaimed toughest sheriff Thursday, a rare step for the agency after months of negotiations failed to reach a settlement over allegations that his department racially profiled Latinos in his trademark immigration patrols.

Federal officials said that only once before has the agency filed a lawsuit against a police department that they were unable to reach an agreement with in the 18-year history of the DOJ's police reform efforts. The lawsuit means a federal judge will decide the escalating standoff with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

The DOJ first leveled the allegations against Arpaio in December, saying that a culture of disregard for basic constitutional rights prevailed at the office, which covers metro Phoenix. Talks to reach a settlement broke off last month. Arpaio refused to agree to a court-appointed monitor who would help enforce a settlement. Arpaio said it would nullify his authority. After DOJ officials notified him of their intent to sue, Arpaio defended himself Thursday. "If they sue, we'll go to court," he said.

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Whooping cough epidemic declared

SEATTLE (AP) -- Washington state's worst outbreak of whooping cough in decades has prompted health officials to declare an epidemic, seek help from federal experts and urge residents to get vaccinated amid worry that cases of the highly contagious disease could spike much higher.

It's the first state to declare a whooping cough, or pertussis, epidemic since 2010, when California had more than 9,000 cases, including 10 deaths.

California responded with a public information campaign, readily available vaccines and a new law requiring a booster shot for middle- and high-school students. In 2011, the number of cases there dropped significantly. In Washington, about 1,280 cases have been reported in 2012, and officials believe the state could see as many as 3,000 cases by year's end.