Washington-- Thursday, the Justice Department announced it has filed a civil rights lawsuit against Terry S. Johnson, in his official capacity as head of the Alamance County Sheriff's Office (ACSO) in North Carolina.
According to a news release from agency, the lawsuit alleges that ACSO routinely discriminates against and targets Latinos for enforcement action, in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.
USDOJ said the lawsuit follows a comprehensive investigation of sheriff's department police practices. Investigators with the justice department said they interviewed more than 125 individuals, conducted a review of ACSO policies, procedures, training materials and analysis of data on traffic stops, arrests, citations, vehicle checkpoints, and other documentary evidence.
On Sept. 18, 2012, the department issued a formal findings letter detailing ACSO's discriminatory policing practices and inviting ACSO to negotiate a court-enforceable agreement to remedy the violations found. ACSO declined to enter into meaningful settlement negotiations.
Previous Story: Sheriff Accused of Bias Towards Latinos
List of USDOJ complaints from their news release to the media: The complaint alleges that ACSO's discriminatory policing activities include:
-- ACSO deputies unlawfully target Latino drivers for traffic stops: a study of ACSO's traffic stops on three major county roadways found that deputies were between four and 10 times more likely to stop Latino drivers than non-Latino drivers
-- ACSO deputies arrest Latinos for minor traffic violations while issuing citations or warnings to non-Latinos for comparable violations
-- ACSO deputies use vehicle checkpoints in a discriminatory manner to target Latinos.
-- ACSO uses jail booking and detention practices, including practices related to immigration status checks, that discriminate against Latinos.
The complaint further alleges that these discriminatory practices are deeply rooted in a culture that begins with Sheriff Johnson and permeates the entire agency.
Click on USDOJ to see full report
The Justice Department seeks a court enforceable, comprehensive, written agreement that will ensure long term structural, cultural and institutional change at ACSO. In particular, ACSO must develop and implement new policies, procedures and training in effective and constitutional policing. Any reform efforts must also include systems of accountability to ensure that ACSO has eliminated unlawful bias from its decision making at all levels.
Members of the Alamance County community who wish to provide information to the Department may call 1-877-871-9726 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Johson's attorney sent WFMY News 2 sent this statement about the lawsuit: On December 20th 2012 the Alamance County Sheriff's Office was notified by the news media that the DOJ was filing some form of action against the Sheriff of Alamance County. Shortly thereafter Mr. Chuck Kitchen, attorney representing the Sheriff, received an e-mail copy of the unfiled complaint. We will be filing a response to the complaint; however, it appears that many of the allegations in the complaint are derived from prior press interviews. The complaint seems to rely on some of the same persons that have appeared in these interviews stating that they were arrested by the Alamance County Sheriff's Office. However, we have determined that these individuals were in fact arrested by law enforcement agencies other than the Alamance County Sheriff's Office.
The statistical analysis referred to in the complaint has not been shared with us. However we believe that the DOJ has intentionally selected Spanish Speaking neighborhoods in the analysis in order to support their conclusions.
Sheriff Johnson continues to deny any wrongdoing by his department. The Alamance County Sheriff's Office does not engage in profiling Spanish Speaking persons. The Sheriff will be filing a formal response with the court.
Randy Jones, PIO Alamance Co. Sheriff's Office
S.C. Kitchen, Turrentine Law Firm
US Department of Justice