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Racial Justice

The ACLU is dedicated to combating racial and ethnic bias and upholding racial equality in order to preserve and extend constitutionally guaranteed rights to people who have historically been denied their rights on the basis of race or ethnicity. Our Racial Justice Project works with local communities to investigate reports of racial profiling across North Carolina. 

RALEIGH – Today the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil rights lawsuit against Alamance County Sheriff Terry Johnson (pictured) alleging that the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) “at the direction of Defendant Johnson, intentionally discriminates against Latino persons in Alamance County by targeting Latinos for investigation, detention and arrest, and conducting unreasonable seizures and other unlawful law enforcement actions in violation f the United States Constitution and federal law.”

The lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina to order Sheriff Johnson to refrain from discriminatory policing and for the ACSO to adopt and implement policies that would constitutionally protect and serve all county residents.

In response, Chris Brook, Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation, offered the following statement:

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) today announced the launch of a new campaign aimed at combatting racial profiling in police traffic stops in North Carolina.

The civil rights organization has spent years investigating reports of racial profiling and racially biased policing in traffic stops across the state, most recently leading the Winston-Salem Police Department to adopt new guidelines for conducting vehicle checkpoints. A recent report from University of North Carolina Prof. Frank Baumgartner found that in North Carolina, African American drivers are 77% more likely than white drivers to be searched after a traffic stop, while Hispanic drivers are 96% more likely than white drivers to be searched.

The ACLU-NCLF is calling on victims of racial profiling to write down and document their experiences in order to assist the organization with public education, lobbying, and the creation of community based solutions to the problem of racial profiling, with an eye to possible litigation if necessary.

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RALEIGH – An investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) found that the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office “has engaged in a pattern or practice of violations of the United States Constitution and federal law,” according to a letter sent today by Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez to the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO).

The findings show evidence that ACSO “unlawfully targets, stops, detains, and arrests Latinos” in a manner that is “intentional and motivated by the Sheriff’s prejudices against Latinos.” A statistical study commissioned by the Department of Justice finds that ACSO deputies are between 4 and 10 times more likely to stop Latino than non-Latino drivers.

The DOJ report chronicles ACSO’s efforts to mask the disparate racial impact of their policing tactics. ACSO often failed to record a checkpoint as required by law. ACSO and Alamance County also “persistently delayed providing important information and otherwise obstructed the division’s investigation,” according to the report.

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Earlier today the United States Supreme Court struck down three of the four provisions of Arizona’s anti-immigrant law, S.B. 1070, reaffirming the supremacy of federal control over immigration while stating that it is too early to tell if the fourth provision, Arizona’s so-called “show me your papers” policy, is unconstitutional as well.

In response, Raul Pinto, Racial Justice Attorney for the ACLU of North Carolina Legal Foundation, offered the following statement:

“The Supreme Court’s decision today makes clear that aspects of Arizona’s law raise serious constitutional concerns and is further proof of why North Carolina should not follow Arizona’s path. We’ve seen the corrosive effects that laws like S.B. 1070 have on efforts to foster trust and cooperation within communities. Anti-immigrant laws modeled after Arizona’s undermine police work, harm businesses, threaten our most basic American values, and are proving to be a failed experiment that we must not repeat here. Similar laws are being challenged in every state in which they have been enacted because they result in racial profiling and other civil liberties violations. If an Arizona-style law was ever enacted in North Carolina, there is little doubt that it would be challenged as well.”

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RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina today praised North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue for vetoing SB 9, a bill that would repeal the state’s landmark Racial Justice Act, and called on members of the General Assembly to sustain her veto in order to prevent executions based on race.

“We applaud Governor Perdue for vetoing a measure that ignores the role that race plays in death penalty cases in North Carolina,” said Sarah Preston, ACLU-NC Policy Director. “The Racial Justice Act is a crucial safeguard against well-documented racial discrimination in our state’s capital punishment system. We strongly urge members of the General Assembly to save this landmark law by sustaining the governor’s veto of SB 9.”