A North Carolina sheriff denies allegations made by the Justice Department that he and his deputies have been discriminating against Latinos.
According to the Justice Department’s summary of their two year investigation (an 11-page report that came out on Tuesday), Alamance County Sheriff Terry S. Johnson ordered his deputies to arrest motorists who looked like “taco eaters” — Johnson’s vernacular for Latinos, who he felt were prone to drinking, drug dealing, and other crimes –and let off white drivers with a warning. In response, his deputies set up road blocks in neighborhoods with large Latino populations and stopped anyone who wasn’t white.
The report indicates that after reviewing the department’s traffic stop records during this time in Alamance County, Latino drivers were 10 times more likely to be stopped by police than non-Latinos, despite making up only 11 percent of the county’s population.
A 2012 study illustrated that this wasn’t just a county-wide problem, either. After analyzing over 13 million traffic stops by North Carolina police between 2000 and 2011, a UNC study reported that Latinos were 96 percent more likely than whites to have their cars searched during a traffic stop.
Besides the stereotyping, the report also indicates Johnson’s overwhelmingly racist attitude toward Latinos. “If you stop a Mexican,” he’s quoted telling supervisors, “don’t write a citation, arrest him.”
The report also quoted a 2007 article from a local newspaper, in which Johnson said, “Their values are a lot different — their morals — than what we have here.” Johnson also said in that article that the immigrant program his county was participating in brought in an additional $66 per night for each illegal alien his department detained.
The Justice Department outlined ways in which Johnson’s department could ameliorate the discrimination by him and his deputies. The AP notes that if Johnson fails to commit to the recommendations, the Justice Department could take the county to federal court.
The report was signed off by Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez, who said that the discrimination they investigated was “deeply rooted in a culture that begins with Sheriff Johnson and permeates the entire agency” and that “anti-Latino bias motivates [Sheriff Johnson's] selection and enforcement of enforcement priorities.”
After the report came out, Johnson said that the results of the investigation were political, and that the Obama Administration was waging war on local law enforcement.
From the Letter of Findings
Below are some of the most shocking parts from the Letter of Findings released by the Justice Department on Tuesday:
The Sheriff directs his deputies to target predominantly Latino neighborhoods for increased enforcement based not eh Sheriff’s often-stated belief that Latinos are responsible for Alamance County’s drug trade. For example, tat a staff meeting Sheriff Johnson stated, “We’ve had a big drop in the Hispanic population, but we still got a lot dealing dope and we still got a lot of citizens in this country dealing dope with them.” Accordingly, he directed his Vice/Special Operations Unit to target three or four predominately Latino mobile home parks and neighborhoods. As he described these heightened enforcement efforts in predominately Latino areas, Sheriff Johnson stated, “Hell will come to these places and the devil gonna come with him. And you folks [the Special Ops Unit] gonna be the devil.”
ACSO’s Special Operations Unit does not adhere to record keeping requirements or other standard policing practices. The Unit performs traffic enforcement and other special operations prioritized by the Sheriff. These officers, hand-picked by and loyal to the Sheriff, perform most of the County’s traffic stops and target predominantly Latino neighborhoods with road blocks, vehicle stops, raids, and increased patrols at the direction of Sheriff Johnson but with little oversight. These deputies often do not fill out required documentation of enforcement actions, limiting oversight of their activities. Additionally, members of the Unit are inconsistently disciplined for misconduct.
Read the entire Letter of Findings here.