DOJ Finds Evidence of Racial Profiling in Alamance County, DHS Restricts Immigration Enforcement Authority for Sheriff

Image: 

In 2010, Rights Working Group staff worked with the ACLU of North Carolina and other local RWG members and allies to compile 287(g)-related complaints and submit them to the Department of Justice. This September, the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) released findings following its own investigation of the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO). Read more about the DOJ’s findings on racial profiling in Alamance County, which included findings that ACSO engages in a pattern of discriminatory conduct targeting Latinos. In response to the findings, the Department of Homeland Security has terminated ACSO’s participation in the 287(g) Program and has restricted ACSO’s access to the Secure Communities Program.

DOJ found that:

  • ACSO deputies 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 routinely locate checkpoints just outside Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents to endure police checks when entering or leaving their communities;
  • ACSO practices at vehicle checkpoints often vary based on a driver’s ethnicity.   Deputies insist on examining identification of Latino drivers, while allowing drivers of other ethnicities to pass through without showing identification;
  • ACSO deputies arrest Latinos for minor traffic violations while issuing citations or warnings to non-Latinos for the same violations;
  • ACSO uses jail booking and detention practices, including practices related to immigration status checks, that discriminate against Latinos;
  • The sheriff and ACSO’s leadership explicitly instruct deputies to target Latinos with discriminatory traffic stops and other enforcement activities;
  • The sheriff and ACSO leadership foster a culture of bias by using anti-Latino epithets; and
  • ACSO engages in substandard reporting and monitoring practices that mask its discriminatory conduct.

Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division condemned ACSO for engaging in an “egregious pattern” of racial profiling and hindering police community relations.

“The Alamance County Sheriff’s Office’s egregious pattern of racial profiling violates the Constitution and federal laws, creates distrust between the police and the community and inhibits the reporting of crime and cooperation in criminal investigations,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division.  

“Constitutional policing and effective law enforcement go hand-in-hand. We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings by working collaboratively with ACSO, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if ACSO chooses a different course.”