County OK of U.S. deal is ex­pected

Su­per­vi­sors will vote amid al­le­ga­tions that sher­iff ’s of­fi­cials in An­te­lope Val­ley tar­geted mi­nori­ties.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Abby Sewell

Los An­ge­les County su­per­vi­sors are ex­pected to ap­prove a set­tle­ment Tues­day with the Jus­tice Depart­ment over al­le­ga­tions that sher­iff ’s of­fi­cials sys­tem­at­i­cally tar­geted mi­nori­ties in the An­te­lope Val­ley.

Af­ter a two-year in­ves­ti­ga­tion, the Jus­tice Depart­ment in 2013 ac­cused the county and the cities of Lan­caster and Palm­dale of wag­ing a cam­paign of dis­crim­i­na­tion against African Amer­i­can res­i­dents, par­tic­u­larly those living in low­in­come sub­si­dized hous­ing.

Fed­eral of­fi­cials said some sher­iff ’s per­son­nel in the An­te­lope Val­ley had en­gaged in a “pat­tern or prac­tice of un­con­sti­tu­tional and un­law­ful polic­ing re­gard­ing stops, searches and seizures, ex­ces­sive force, and dis­crim­i­na­tory tar­get­ing of voucher hold­ers in their homes.”

That tar­get­ing of­ten took the form of teams of armed sher­iff ’s deputies ac­com­pa­ny­ing county hous­ing agency in­ves­ti­ga­tors on sur­prise in­spec­tions of Sec­tion 8 sub­si­dized rental units, look­ing for vi­o­la­tions of hous­ing rules. Some city and county of­fi­cials at the time ar­gued that the com­pli­ance checks were needed to root out abuses in the pro­gram.

The fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion also found that African Amer­i­cans were dis­pro­por­tion­ately more likely to be stopped and searched than other res­i­dents, and that deputies had used ex­ces­sive force against hand­cuffed de­tainees.

The de­tails of the pro­posed set­tle­ment have not been pub­licly re­leased, but a county of­fi­cial who would speak only on con­di­tion of anonymity said the set­tle­ment re­quires the Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment to com­ply with

a list of re­quire­ments re­lat­ing to train­ing, use of force and com­mu­nity en­gage­ment. The county will be sub­ject to mon­i­tor­ing and will be re­quired to col­lect data to show its progress. County sources said Jus­tice Depart­ment of­fi­cials are ex­pected to an­nounce the agree­ment at a news con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day.

The set­tle­ment will also in­clude mon­e­tary com­pen­sa­tion to peo­ple whose rights were found to have been vi­o­lated, but the amount of that pay­ment has not been re­leased. The Jus­tice Depart­ment ini­tially had de­manded that the county and cities of Lan­caster and Palm­dale pay $12.5 mil­lion to res­i­dents whose rights were vi­o­lated.

The of­fi­cial said the county is still work­ing out a sep­a­rate set­tle­ment that will per­tain to the L.A. County Hous­ing Author­ity. That agree­ment could in­clude pay­ments to peo­ple who lost their hous­ing vouch­ers as a re­sult of the raids.

A spokesman for Su­per­vi­sor Michael D. Antonovich, who rep­re­sents the An­te­lope Val­ley, de­clined to com­ment be­fore Tues­day’s vote, which will take place be­hind closed doors.

Com­mu­nity ac­tivists in the An­te­lope Val­ley said re­la­tions with the Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment have dramatically im­proved as a re­sult of the fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion and a sep­a­rate law­suit filed by com­mu­nity groups in 2011.

Palm­dale res­i­dent V. Jesse Smith, one of the founders of the Com­mu­nity Ac­tion League, an ad­vo­cacy group for low-in­come res­i­dents in the An­te­lope Val­ley and a plain­tiff in the law­suit against the Sher­iff ’s Depart­ment, said that re­la­tions have im­proved dramatically since then.

One of the terms of the pri­vate law­suit set­tle­ment with Lan­caster was the cre­ation of a work­ing group com­posed of city of­fi­cials, mem­bers of the ac­tion league and NAACP.

The group meets monthly to talk about com­mu­nity con­cerns. Deal­ings with the sher­iff’s sta­tions in Palm­dale and Lan­caster have also im­proved dramatically, Smith said.

The re­forms re­sult­ing from the law­suit and fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he said, have “bro­ken down the walls of dis­trust, and we’re fi­nally able to have a dia­logue rather than a mono­logue.”

Maria Palo­mares, an at­tor­ney with Neigh­bor­hood Legal Ser­vices of Los An­ge­les County, who rep­re­sented plain­tiffs in the pri­vate law­suit, said her or­ga­ni­za­tion, which used to be flooded with com­plaints about the Sec­tion 8 raids, is no longer get­ting calls from res­i­dents con­tend­ing that deputies show up “with guns blaz­ing.”

Palo­mares said she still hears com­plaints of racial pro­fil­ing in the An­te­lope Val­ley, but she said the Sec­tion 8 com­pli­ance checks are no longer used “as a tool to dis­crim­i­nate against black and Latino fam­i­lies.”

Sher­iff Jim McDon­nell de­clined to com­ment, and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Jus­tice Depart­ment’s civil rights di­vi­sion could not be reached.

Michael Robin­son Chavez Los An­ge­les Times

L.A. COUNTY sher­iff ’s deputies, county Hous­ing Author­ity in­ves­ti­ga­tors and pa­role agents search Sec­tion 8 apart­ments and homes in Lan­caster.

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