Local/State

Feds: NC sheriff's deputies targeted Latinos

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A two-year investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice has determined a North Carolina sheriff and his deputies routinely discriminated against Latinos.

The Justice Department said Tuesday that the Alamance County Sheriff's Office violated federal law and engaged in discriminatory policing which targeted Latinos.

The sheriff, however, said it isn't true.

"We have never discriminated against Spanish speaking persons in any way, shape, form or fashion here at the Alamance County Sheriff's Office as long as I have been sheriff," said Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnston.

Johnson was vocal and angry when talking about the allegations.

Click here to read more about the investigation

"Even though the Department of Justice has moved to dismiss this baseless lawsuit this afternoon against me and my department, the Obama Administration has decided to continue to wage war against law enforcement," said Johnson.

Although the lawsuit is being dismissed, the DOJ is accusing Johnson and his men in uniform of blatant racism.

Among the allegations against the department:

  • Deputies were targeting Latinos.

  • Sheriff Johnson instructed the deputies to do it.

  • The report cites the sheriff as saying, "If you stop a Mexican, don't write a citation -- arrest him."

  • It also accuses the sheriff of using anti-Latino epithets, such as "taco-eater" and suggested the department covered the discrimination up through substandard reporting and monitoring.

The DOJ goes on further to say that Johnson's deputies targeted Latino drivers from checkpoints to pullovers more than anyone else behind the wheel. They also assert that the sheriff's office practiced discrimination, which violated federal and state law.

The American Civil Liberties Union agrees.

"It shows that the discrimination came from the top down and the incendiary statements made by Sheriff Johnson are a sign of what was happening in Alamance County," said the ACLU's Raul Pinto.

But the county clearly doesn't see it that way.

"Instead of trying the lawsuit next Wednesday as it was scheduled, the Department of Justice has decided to try this case in the media," said Alamance County attorney Clyde Albright.

The DOJ and the ACLU say they will be looking for reforms, but Johnson fired back, saying there's nothing to fix.

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(Copyright ©2014 ABC11-WTVD-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved - The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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