Karen McVeigh in New York
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 17 July 2012 15.00 BST
The self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff in America", Joe Arpaio, will be called to account in a courtroom this week over long-standing accusations that he is waging an unlawful campaign of discrimination and harassment against Latinos.
Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, will be questioned before a federal judge in Phoenix in a class action lawsuit over allegations that his so-called "crime suppression" sweeps racially profile Latinos and those who look like them rather than target any evidence of criminal activity.
The sheriff, who has endorsed Mitt Romney for president and was in the audience at the televised Republican debate in Arizona, is already the subject of a civil lawsuit brought by the justice department, in a similar but broader case accusing him of widespread civil rights abuses.
The plaintiffs, a small group claiming discrimination and harassment by Arpaio and his deputies, say they have "voluminous evidence" alleging that the sheriff's office in Maricopa County is engaged in a systematic practice of racial profiling. They allege that some sweeps or "saturation patrols" were prompted by letters from the public warning of workers "speaking only Spanish" and about "dark skinned" individuals.