By Carolyna Caicedo Manrique, ACLU
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – A federal judge today dismissed a civil rights lawsuit filed against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson by the U.S. Department of Justice, which charged that under Johnson’s leadership, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office unlawfully targeted Latino residents for investigation, traffic stops, arrests, seizures, and other enforcement actions.
“Today's decision flies in the face of a mountain of evidence that Sheriff Johnson and the Alamance County Sheriff's Office engaged in discriminatory policing,” said Carolyna Caicedo Manrique, Staff Attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC). “During the trial, the Department of Justice presented expert testimony that Latinos in Alamance County were seven times more likely to be stopped and cited than non-Latinos in the community. This profiling was no accident. According to witnesses, Sheriff Johnson repeatedly and explicitly instructed his deputies to target Latinos, at one point even telling them to ‘go get me some Mexicans.’ We urge the Department of Justice to appeal this miscarriage of justice in order to ensure all Alamance County residents can again have confidence in their Sheriff's department.”
The ACLU and other groups have been receiving complaints about Johnson, his deputies, and their treatment of Latinos for years. A 2012 statistical analysis commissioned by DOJ found that along three major Alamance County highways, ACSO deputies were approximately 4, 9, and 10 times more likely, respectively, to stop Latino drivers than similarly situated non-Latino drivers. The lawsuit listed examples of Latino drivers being followed by Alamance deputies for long stretches of time and then pulled over for little or no reason. Witnesses also testified about numerous incidents in which Johnson and other ACSO employees expressed prejudice against Latino residents.