Linking Research to Reality

Yesterday (9/18/2012), the United States Department of Justice (USDOJ) released investigative findings that Alamance County’s Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) “engages in a pattern or practice of discriminatory policing against Latinos” (see Release). Based on research findings, The (USDOJ) found that:

  • ACSO deputies target Latino drivers for traffic stops;
  • A study of ACSO’s traffic stops on three major county roadways found that deputies were between four and 10 times more likely to stop Latino drivers than non-Latino drivers;
  • ACSO deputies routinely locate checkpoints just outside Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents to endure police checks when entering or leaving their communities;
  • ACSO practices at vehicle checkpoints often vary based on a driver’s ethnicity.   Deputies insist on examining identification of Latino drivers, while allowing drivers of other ethnicities to pass through without showing identification;
  • ACSO deputies arrest Latinos for minor traffic violations while issuing citations or warnings to non-Latinos for the same violations;
  • ACSO uses jail booking and detention practices, including practices related to immigration status checks, that discriminate against Latinos;
  • The sheriff and ACSO’s leadership explicitly instruct deputies to target Latinos with discriminatory traffic stops and other enforcement activities;
  • The sheriff and ACSO leadership foster a culture of bias by using anti-Latino epithets; and
  • ACSO engages in substandard reporting and monitoring practices that mask its discriminatory conduct

Well, in 2011, Dr. Amy Page and I published a study exploring the patterns of traffic stops and post-stop activities of 32 North Carolina law enforcement agencies from 2005 to 2009 (check here to read the study). Even though our sample did not include ACSO, our findings corroborate the USDOJ’s findings in which over 50% of the sample had disproportionate stop rates of Blacks and Hispanics in comparison to Whites. We also found that a number of agencies were more likely to search Hispanics than Whites but did not arrest Hispanics at higher proportions suggesting that these agencies may be profiling. In addition to this study, I have another paper that is under review that provides several qualitative testimonies from Mexican immigrants about how they have had to deal with “random” licenses checks while living in the High Country, which always seemed to occur after Catholic mass or a league soccer match.

In short, what the USDOJ research and my research suggests is that what we are finding is not made up or some sort of “witch-hunt” of law enforcement in North Carolina. It is, however, a chance to notice that research can be reality and we need to pay attention to the social injustices that prevail against non-whites in the South even when most pundits would suggest “racism is dead.”

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About lippardcd

Assistant Professor of Sociology at Appalachian State University.
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