The pardon came after Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt earlier this year for refusing to stop racially profiling suspects during traffic stops and arrests.
“The pardon of Mr. Arpaio, who repeatedly violated the civil rights of Latino residents of Maricopa County, Arizona and also violated a federal court order to desist from violating those civil rights, flouts the rule of law,” the commission wrote in a statement obtained by BuzzFeed News’ Dominic Holdin. “Moreover, because these violations occurred while Mr. Arpaio was acting as a law enforcement officer, the pardon erodes the promise of fair administration of justice.”
The commission, consisting of eight commissioners—four appointed by Congress, and four by the president—is a bipartisan, independent federal agency, first established as part of the 1957 Civil Rights Act.
Catherine Lhamon, the Commission’s chair, who was appointed by President Obama in his final weeks in office, did not mince words in condemning the Arpaio pardon:
The President’s pardon of Sheriff Arpaio damages the fabric of our nation by condoning—from law enforcement—deliberate, flagrant violation of a court order specifically to protect fundamental constitutional principals. The federal courts fulfilled their obligation to protect and uphold civil rights, and it is anathema to the fair administration of justice for the President to dismiss that judgement.
According to the commission, the decision to denounce the presidential pardon was made by majority vote.