September 18, 2012

RALEIGH – An investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office “has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the United States Constitution and federal law,” according to a letter sent today by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).

The findings show evidence that ACSO “unlawfully targets, stops, detains, and arrests Latinos” in a manner that is “intentional and motivated by the Sheriff’s prejudices against Latinos.” A statistical study commissioned by the Department of Justice finds that ACSO deputies are between 4 and 10 times more likely to stop Latino than non-Latino drivers.

The DOJ report chronicles ACSO’s efforts to mask the disparate racial impact of their policing tactics. ACSO often failed to record a checkpoint as required by law. ACSO and Alamance County also “persistently delayed providing important information and otherwise obstructed the division’s investigation,” according to the report.

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) had similar problems in 2009 when it had to threaten to file litigation in order to receive public records relating to ACSO’s treatment of Latino residents.

The ACSO participates in the federal 287(g) program, under which U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) gives ACSO the authority to enforce federal immigration laws within its jurisdiction.

In response, ACLU-NCLF Legal Director Chris Brook offered the following statement.

“We have been receiving troubling reports of discriminatory policing by the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office for years. The findings released today confirm our fear that such discriminatory tactics are a systemic problem in the ACSO. We call on the ACSO and Alamance County to work with the Department of Justice to promptly adopt comprehensive policies addressing the pervasive pattern and culture of unconstitutional discrimination. If ACSO and Alamance County fail to act, then we encourage the Department of Justice to ensure these unconstitutional tactics cease. We also call upon the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to immediately revoke the Memorandum of Agreement allowing ACSO to participate in the 287(g) program in light of these disturbing abuses.”

The DOJ findings were released on the same day that the ACLU-NCLF announced a new campaign urging victims of racial profiling across the state to put their experiences in writing and report them to the ACLU-NCLF.