Feds Unfair to North Carolina Sheriff’s Office

To the Editor:

The Federal Government, under the guise of protecting constitutional rights of minorities, has issued an unfair, biased, and I believe (based on the timing of its release) politically motivated attack on the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO). (Department of Justice: Sheriff’s Office Illegally Targets Latinos – Times-News September 19).

Reading the Times-News article spurred me to read the eleven-page Letter of Finding issued by the Assistant Attorney General of the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, Mr. Thomas E. Perez. Not surprisingly, the letter was a slew of artfully crafted allegations without supporting facts or elements of proof; although Mr. Perez states that statistical studies were conducted, no statistical tables were provided for evaluation by citizens, other than broad examples such as: “A recent statistical study commissioned by DOJ found that ACSO deputies are between four and ten times more likely to stop Latino drivers than non-Latino drivers.” Well, is it four times or is it ten times, and why does Mr. Perez not acknowledge that there are valid demographic reasons that could explain this apparent disparity? And how does a deputy making a stop at night know the ethnicity of a driver before the stop? If ACSO set up checkpoints near Latino neighborhoods, would they not discontinue that practice if the results were not fruitful.

Mr. Perez also states that ACSO was slow to respond to allegations and that it refused to permit its deputies to testify without counsel. I believe if the Federal Government were suing me, I’d want to make a careful, deliberate, and complete response; and I would definitely not talk to a Federal Officer without my attorney present (which is a constitutionally guaranteed right that DOJ seemed unwilling to provide the deputies they sought to interview). I give Sheriff Johnson and the rest of the ACSO a lot of credit for assuring that their deputies rights were protected, and I personally resent as a citizen and a reader of Mr. Perez’s letter the manner in which DOJ slanted that issue.

Finally, Mr. Perez conveniently ignores the fact that ACSO availed itself of a legal Federal program to check the immigration status of non-citizen offenders. Because of the change of parties in DOJ after the 2008 election, that program was eventually discontinued. A recent court ruling has allowed the state of Arizona to restore and continue a similar program.

There is much more to respond to, more than four pages of the letter being mere recitations of case law. However, the point here is that if one accepts media reports on this story without reading the Letter of Finding, one could rush to an unfair judgment.

I would urge all Alamance County citizens, including Latinos, to download and read the letter for themselves before reaching unfounded conclusions. All citizens should resent, and perhaps fear, the Federal Government’s intrusion into this matter without more facts than Mr. Perez provided.

Harry Porthouse
North Carolina

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