For more than a year, the Department of Justice has been documenting evidence that a North Carolina county sheriff’s department routinely and visciously discriminates against Latinos, whom officers refers to as “taco eaters.” This week, a legal filing reveals that Alamance County Sheriff Terry S. Johnson sent “his subordinates a video game premised on shooting Mexican children, pregnant women, and other ‘wetbacks'” as they attempt to cross the border.
In a motion that describes a laundry list of racist actions and policies, the Justice Department asked a federal judge this week to halt traffic stops it says are unconstitutional. “Sheriff Terry Johnson expressly ordered his officers to ‘go get them Mexicans;’ ‘arrest Hispanics’ during traffic stops; and ‘lock up any damn Mexicans that you can’ during vehicle checkpoints,” the motion states. As a result of these policies, Latinos in the county are 6 to 7.1 times more likely to be stopped for traffic violations, even when controlling for other factors, the DOJ asserts.
“After a stop is made, Latinos are 250 percent more likely to receive a citation, 50 percent more likely to face arrest, and 20 percent more likely to be searched than comparable drivers from other ethnic backgrounds. Infra at 12. And Latinos comprise 37 percent of drivers stopped at ACSO’s checkpoints despite making up less than 9 percent of the driving population,” the motion states.
Sheriff Johnson also made regular public comments disparaging Latinos, and assuming that Latinos were not “citizens” or “American.” His employees regularly sent disparaging emails about Latinos, which they broadly refer to either using racial slurs, or as “Mexicans” or “illegals” regardless of status or origin. County officers have not once been disciplined for this or other discriminatory behavior. But Sheriff Johnson singled out an employee for investigation because her last name seemed Latino after he had been told one of his employees might have committed document fraud.
This attitude has bred such fear and distrust among the Latino population that a Latino murder victim was afraid to let an officer into his home to investigate. Both racial profiling, and the police mistrust that accompany it, are problems particularly common in states with harsh anti-immigration laws like Arizona.