Department of Justice files lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff’s Office

The U.S. Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson Dec. 20, accusing him of engaging in discriminatory policing against Latinos. File photo by Al Drago.
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The U.S. Justice Department filed a civil rights lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson Dec. 20, accusing him of engaging in discriminatory policing against Latinos.

The complaint alleges the ACSO has routinely discriminated against and targeted Latinos for enforcement action since at least January 2007, which violates the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments and Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

According to the DOJ’s complaint, the ACSO’s discriminatory conduct includes targeting Latinos for traffic stops and stopping Latino drivers without reasonable suspicion, arresting Latinos for minor infractions while letting others go with a citation or warning, disproportionately locating vehicle checkpoints in Latino neighborhoods and disproportionately referring Latinos for immigration investigations at the Alamance County Jail.

The DOJ’s complaint cited a 2012 statistical study by the DOJ that found Latino drivers in Alamance County are as much as 10 times more likely than a similarly situated non-Latino driver to be stopped by an ACSO deputy for committing a traffic infraction.

The ACSO issued a press release in response to the complaint.

“Sheriff Johnson continues to deny any wrongdoing by his department,” the ACSO press release stated. “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.”

The ACSO was formally accused of racial profiling in September, when the DOJ released a findings letter detailing ACSO’s discriminatory policing practices. Because the sheriff declined to work with the federal government, the department chose to take legal action against the ACSO, as stated in the findings letter.

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