The battle between President Barack Obama and Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio is getting nastier with both sides accusing the other of playing political games.
Talks due to start on Wednesday to attempt to resolve allegations of racial profiling in Arpaio's office were called off at the last minute amid name-calling from both sides.
Arpaio claims the federal government is trying to take over his department as part of a political witchhunt against him.
"I am the constitutionally and legitimately elected sheriff and I absolutely refuse to surrender my responsibility to the federal government," he said in a press release posted on his website.
"And so to the Obama administration, who is attempting to strong arm me into submission only for its political gain, I say, 'This will not happen, not on my watch!'"
Arpaio has been sheriff of Phoenix-based Maricopa County, the fourth largest county in the country, for nearly 20 years. He insists the investigations by Attorney General Eric Holder's Justice Department (DOJ) are politically motivated due to his strong opposition to illegal immigration.
They come at a time when Arpaio, 79, faces perhaps his toughest reelection battle in the fall and after he reignited the debate into Obama's birth, launching a probe that, he claims, raises questions about the president's eligibility to hold the country's highest office.
Arpaio said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Roy Austin called his attorneys saying that he had to accept a federally appointed outside monitor to oversee his department.
"Appointment of an outside monitor essentially usurps the powers and duties of an elected sheriff and transfers them to a person or group of persons selected by the federal government," said the man who is often referred to as America's Toughest Sheriff.
"Every policy decision, every operation, every new program in the jails and in enforcement, virtually everything would have to be approved by the monitor, nullifying the authority of the elected sheriff and eviscerating the will of the citizens of Maricopa County."
But Austin blasted Arpaio in a letter claiming the sheriff was wasting time and not negotiating in good faith. "Your tactics have required DOJ to squander valuable time and resources," Austin wrote.
The DOJ is currently investigating a record 17 police and sheriff departments nationwide, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday. But the probe into Arpaio's is the most high-profile.
The department claims that Hispanics are treated unfairly by the department, by being profiled for traffic stops and being punished if they do not understand orders in English once they are in jail. It has also been accused of failing to investigate alleged sex crimes against Hispanic women.
Arpaio is standing for a sixth term in office in November. He faces challenges from independent Mike Stauffer and Democrat Paul Penzone.
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