The Justice Department announced on Friday that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has violated the U.S. Constitution and federal laws through mistreating black people and other residents of public housing in the Antelope Valley.
The allegations, many of them found to be credible, include "pattern or practice of discrimination against African Americans in its enforcement of the Housing Choice Voucher Program in violation of the Fair Housing Act.”
The two-year civil rights investigation involved the Sheriff Department's Lancaster and Palmdale stations in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles, LA Times reported.
The residents in the Antelope Valley said that the Sheriff’s Department has been doing surprise inspections of government-subsidized or Section 8, housing.
The residents asserted that the inspections, often done by armed sheriff's deputies, were intimidating, with activists arguing that inspectors threatened the residents that they return with search warrants if they did not permit checks of their homes.
According to the Justice Department’s findings, there is a higher chance for African Americans and some Latinos to be stopped and/or searched compared to that for the whites.
The findings also showed that the department widely uses unlawful backseat detentions which are in violation of the 4th Amendment and the Sheriff’s Department policy as well.
The use of force against handcuffed individuals, intimidation and harassment of African American housing choice voucher holders by sheriff's deputies are among other accusations.
This is while Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore belittled the findings, saying, “We disagree with their assessment about us racially profiling.”
This is not the first time the department's interactions with minorities in the Antelope Valley are questioned as a 2009 report by an independent monitor of the department questioned deputies' behavior in Lancaster.
According to that report, 64 percent of obstruction-related arrests made by deputies in Lancaster were against blacks, although 42 percent of all arrests involved blacks, which comprise 17 percent of the overall Lancaster’s population.