An investigation has been launched into whether Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies engaged in racial profiling against thousands of Latino drivers while on the 5 Freeway. According to a report by the LA Times, 69 percent of drivers who were stopped between 2012 and 2017 as part of a police operation were of Latino descent. County Supervisor Hilda Solis requested the inspector general and Sheriff Civilian Oversight Commission begin a investigative review of the sheriff’s Domestic Highway Enforcement team.
Two-thirds of cars searched by the LA County sheriff’s Domestic Highway Enforcement Team were of Latinos, a rate far higher than other racial groups.
STUNNING @latimes INVESTIGATION: Nearly 70% of motorists pulled over by LA sheriff drug unit on Interstate 5 are Latino. Experts say numbers are highly suspicious and question whether racial profiling is going on. @joelrubin @bposton digging. pic.twitter.com/nBYs4SWLHm
— Shelby Grad (@shelbygrad) October 4, 2018
The report shows that sheriff’s deputies searched the cars of more than 3,500 drivers. A majority of the driver were Latino and didn’t have any illegal items. Deputies conducted searches of Latinos’ vehicles during two-thirds of the stops, while other drivers had their cars searched less than half of the time The statistics are alarming and have caught the attention of various watchdog groups who are calling for an investigation into the report.
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department denies that officers were engaged in racial profiling and praised the amount of drugs seized by officers during their operations. According to the report, officers confiscated “more than a ton of methamphetamine, 2 tons of marijuana, 600 pounds of cocaine, millions of dollars in suspected drug money.”
“We do not racially profile. We make stops based on behaviors and vehicle code violations, not ethnicity,” Assistant Sheriff Eddie Rivero said in a statement released after the LA Times article was published.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis says the report is “concerning.
This is why racial profiling is wrong / L.A. County deputies stopped thousands of innocent Latinos on the 5 Freeway in hopes of their next drug bust – Los Angeles Times https://t.co/wbk0blyRm4
— Art Navarro (@Angrybrownman21) October 7, 2018
“It’s deeply concerning that racial profiling could have been used on Latino drivers,” Solis said in a statement to the Associated Press. Solis says she wants the inspector general and a civilian oversight commission to investigate the enforcement team, which is made up of four white male deputies.
Sheriff Jim McDonnell said he would work with investigators to fix any concerns.
“As someone who has dedicated my career to protecting the civil rights of all people, I am personally concerned about any allegation of racial and ethnic profiling and take very seriously questions about race and police procedures,” McDonnell told the AP.
The traffic stops were conducted along a 40-mile stretch of Interstate-5 that officials say was a major pipeline for cartels to move narcotics.
CREDIT: Credit: LA Times
The enforcement team, which was stationed on Interstate 5, was formed in response to a spike in drug overdoses in the Santa Clarita area. The area of the highway where officers were stationed spans roughly 40 miles of freeway from just south of Santa Clarita to the border of Kern County. Deputies say that section of Interstate 5 is a huge source for cartels to move drugs along the West Coast and return to Mexico.
The investigative reports’ findings come as no surprise to many that know the racial history of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department.
— L.A. TACO 🌴🌮 (@LATACO) October 9, 2018
The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department has had a history of problems, from issues around racial profiling to brutality in local jails. That’s why it came as no surprise to Peter Bibring, senior staff attorney and director of police practices at the ACLU of Southern California. Bibring told L.A. Taco that the department’s problems with racial profiling are well-documented and sees this is an abuse in power.
“The department has a long history of these problems,” Bibring said. “I think one of the concerns of a program like this that seems to involve behavior by deputies that had been flagged by courts and still continues raises concerns that the department has a culture that tolerates this behavior.”