By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - A judge who found Arizona lawman Joe Arpaio racially profiled Latino drivers in his crackdown on illegal immigration gave attorneys on Friday an August deadline to agree to steps to correct the abuse and indicated he is likely to appoint a monitor to ensure their implementation.
The decision handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Murray Snow late last month ordered Arpaio, who styles himself "America's toughest sheriff," to stop using race as a factor in law enforcement decisions.
It came in response to a class-action lawsuit brought by Hispanic drivers in the Phoenix valley that tested, during a three-week trial in July and August, whether police could target illegal immigrants without racially profiling U.S. citizens and legal residents of Hispanic origin.
At a hearing on Friday, Snow set an August 30 date for attorneys representing the American Civil Liberties Union and Arpaio to return to federal court with a consent decree that satisfies the ruling ordering the sheriff's office to stop using race as a factor in law enforcement actions.
Snow on Friday told a packed courtroom he is inclined to appoint a federal monitor to ensure racial profiling has stopped and training has been put into effect to prevent any incidents in the future. But he stopped short of ruling from the bench.
Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County which includes Phoenix, has bristled at the idea of putting in a court-appointed outsider to monitor the job he says he was elected to fulfill.
His attorney Tim Casey said Arpaio already has taken strong steps to correct past problems, including stopping controversial saturation sweeps that targeted and detained immigrants. These operations ceased in October 2011.
"The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office is out of the federal immigration control business," Casey said during a nearly hour-long hearing.
Arpaio, who was elected to a sixth term last year, denies that he profiles Latinos and said last month he would appeal the judge's decision.
The federal case is a setback for the 81-year-old sheriff who has been a lightning rod for controversy over his aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, and has been the subject of other probes and lawsuits.
In August, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona said it had closed a criminal investigation into accusations of financial misconduct by Arpaio, and declined to bring charges.
A separate U.S. Justice Department investigation and lawsuit related to accusations of civil rights abuses by Arpaio's office is ongoing.
On Friday, it was disclosed that settlement negotiations in the racial profiling suit would be expanded to include the Justice Department's lawsuit, with hopes of reaching a broader agreement to include both cases.
Arizona has been at the heart of a bitter national debate over immigration since Republican Governor Jan Brewer signed a 2010 crackdown on illegal immigration that was subsequently challenged by the federal government.
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to stand a part of the law that permits police to question people they stop about their immigration status.
(Additional reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Alex Dobuzinskis and Eric Walsh)