U.S. reaches anti-bias accord with Los Angeles County sheriff

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 28, 2015 9:35 PM

By Daina Beth Solomon

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved an accord on Tuesday with the U.S. Justice Department to settle findings that the country's largest sheriff's department systematically harassed and intimidated low-income minority residents.

The settlement follows a scathing report on Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office abuses cited by the Justice Department in 2013, capping a two-year probe of policing practices in the Antelope Valley, an area of Mojave Desert communities north of Los Angeles.

The report concluded that county sheriff's deputies, along with authorities in the towns of Lancaster and Palmdale, routinely targeted blacks and Hispanics in a "pattern and practice" of unlawful traffic stops, raids and excessive force.

In particular, the report accused the sheriff and county housing agency investigators of waging a discriminatory campaign of surprise inspections and other actions against African-Americans living in federally funded Section 8 affordable-housing units in the area.

Some county and city officials defended their conduct at the time, denying they engaged in discrimination and asserting that Section 8 compliance checks were necessary to ensure residents were abiding by the terms of the public assistance program.

But high-ranking Justice Department officials insisted that their probe had substantiated allegations of bias and abuse, and the county ultimately agreed to negotiate a settlement with the federal government.

The agreement was approved by the Board of Supervisors by a vote of 4-1.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement the settlement called for 150 requirements that would implement "constitutional policing and robust training models" along with a measurement system to track progress.

"I welcome the watchful eye of our community to ensure that we meet those standards," he said. Officer training on racial profiling and Section 8 housing compliance had already begun, he said.

The Los Angeles Times reported that the county must pay restitution to harassment victims, but the sum has not been released. Senior Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo said he could not discuss details of the settlement.

    Justice Department representatives could not be reached by Reuters on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Steve Gorman and Peter Cooney)