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The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has condemned the practice of racial profiling and agreed to promptly revise its anti-bias instruction to officers, expand diversity training and develop community outreach programs as part of a settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP. The settlement resolves a claim brought against the department for stopping and searching dozens of African-American community college students based on their race during an incident on the campus of Los Angeles Trade Technical College in October 2007. Under the settlement, the Sheriff’s Department will implement sorely needed changes, including examining current anti-racial-bias procedures. Additionally, the department will revise its policy to state that department officials will do everything within their power “to guarantee racial profiling and bias-policing are not practiced.” “Our constitution and laws protect the community against law-enforcement harassment based on skin color, and this settlement is one step towards ensuring that the Sheriff’s Department never allows that to happen again,” said Catherine Lhamon, racial justice director at the ACLU/SC. “This agreement brings the department into the 21st century and provides the community with important protections against racial profiling.” Added Jeffrey H. Dasteel, a partner at the law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP: “Skadden is very proud of its tradition of commitment to pro bono service, and particularly of its work with the ACLU on matters of racial justice. With this agreement, the Sheriff’s Department acknowledges that racial profiling cannot and will not be tolerated.” The claim was brought against the department after 14 sheriff’s deputies walked onto the campus of L.A. Trade-Tech on Oct. 17, 2007, allegedly looking for drug dealers, and detained 33 black students and one Latino student who attempted to take pictures of the incident. Deputies searched the male students and forced the entire group, including four women, to sit on the ground in the middle of campus with their hands behind their heads, some for more than an hour. Deputies harassed and humiliated these students, treating them like criminals in front of the faculty, administrators and fellow students. Yet the students were never told why.
“We were all so upset about what happened. Knowing the department will make changes to the way they go about treating people is something I am proud of,” said Rev. Darrin Simington, a youth minister at the Alpha and Omega Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, who was among the dozens of people detained by deputies in the incident. “We look forward to seeing the new changes in the department, especially because these changes will be written in stone.”
Officials from the Sheriff’s Department have defended their actions, saying they were part of an investigation into illegal drug dealing on campus. But a report by the Los Angeles Community College District, which oversees the school, concluded that the roundup constituted racial profiling.
As part of the settlement, the Sheriff’s Department will widely distribute the revised policy within its ranks and post it at L.A. Trade-Tech. The supervising deputy at the community college will also meet with the students harassed to explain the changes the department will make.
“With the ACLU behind us, we were able to get something real accomplished,” Rev. Simington said.
Video of the incident can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6G6LJc9yiXw&NR=1