Local Organizations Allege Racial Profiling, Unlawful Conduct By L.A. Sheriff Transit Deputy

A coalition of local organizations signed off on a report this week that details allegations of unlawful stops, citations and profiling by a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department transit deputy formerly stationed in Long Beach.

The report, prepared by the Los Angeles chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and supported by a coalition of organizations such as the Downtown Church Network to the Long Beach Immigrant Rights Coalition (LBIRC), documents what it says are “serious abuses of police power, including racial profiling and denial of due process rights” over a period of several years.

According to the report, the deputy in question, who was assigned to patrol the southern portion of the Blue Line through LASD’s Transit Services Bureau, would remain in his patrol vehicle near transit stations and target Hispanic drivers for minor infractions and then illegally impound their cars. 

“Once the issue was brought to the attention of Chief Lee Baca, the deputy in question was relocated in March,” said Laura Merryfield of the LBIRC. “But they have failed to do the investigation that they promised.”

Beginning in January of 2012, Chris Lund, principal at Roosevelt Elementary, began receiving a number of complaints from parents regarding frequent impoundment of their vehicles. After tracing the issues back to the specific deputy, Lund attempted to speak with him but the two were unable to find a middle ground. Lund filed a formal complaint on behalf of 27 parents, with the National Lawyers Guild report being conducted soon after.

The report, consisting of testimonials from both Lund and several targeted parents, claims to have “direct evidence of racial profiling… [and the] ignoring of existing law.”

In his testimonial, Lund stated that shortly after he filed the complaint against “Deputy X,” he, his Vice Principal, and three teachers were pulled over by the deputy while leaving the school after an awards banquet. The deputy claimed the driver had made an illegal turn and, upon noticing Lund, asked him to step out of the vehicle, while persistently questioning Lund about the complaint filed against him. 

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During this time, Lund and his co-workers say they noticed two individuals sprint across the street and illegally jump over the protective railings which line the Blue Line–the area which the deputy is supposed to oversee. Lund and the others were eventually let go without a ticket for the purportedly illegal turn.

Furthermore, the report alleges that the deputy continually enforced California Vehicle Code §14602.6 outside of his/her authority. The law limits deputies to impounding vehicles of those who have never been licensed or have had their licenses suspended or revoked. Allegedly, the deputy impounded cars when the driver had a current out of state or out of country license; a violation of state law according to a pending lawsuit against the City of Maywood. 

“The targets of abuse by the Sheriff’s Department are Latino men and women who are unable to obtain a California drivers license due to their immigration status,” the report said. “They may have been licensed in other states or countries or they may now have expired licenses. These are not individuals whose licenses have been suspended or revoked.”

Further allegations go beyond the deputy’s direct authority. One incident claims that the deputy followed a group of mothers during Roosevelt’s construction—nearly a mile off the LASD’s prescribed Blue Line route—while another claims he told a driver to “Shut up or I will have you sent to Mexico.”

During multiple confrontations, Deputy X told Lund and others that he was enforcing the laws and to not do so would be allowing illegal things to happen. The LASD gave no comment for this story.

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 19 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. In 2019, he was awarded the Food/Culture Critic of the Year across any platform at the National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.