Sheriff Conway's rebuttal to ACLU report on racial profiling
March 30, 2010
FALSE INFORMATION RELEASED IN ACLU GEORGIA REPORT
The ACLU recently released a report that Racial Profiling was not only occurring in Gwinnett County, but was prevalent as a result of the 287(g) program. The report is full of false information, false allegations and untruths. While the ACLU indicts this agency and other Gwinnett law enforcement agencies repeatedly as agencies who indulge in racial profiling, they also acknowledge twice in the same report that they don’t have enough information to actually know if racial profiling is occurring. The following is our rebuttal to that report issue by issue:
The report begins on page 5.
The ACLU cites the Case of “Juan.” They acknowledge pseudonyms are used and not actual names. They state Juan was pulled over by Gwinnett Sheriff’s deputies. That is very unlikely. Gwinnett deputies are out serving criminal warrants and civil papers and do not answer calls for service or run traffic stops unless someone is obviously violating the law in front of them. At any rate, there would be a record of the stop and the details if it occurred, but the ACLU never requests such records from the Sheriff’s Department or the Police Department. “Juan” was not arrested so he would not have been checked for his immigration status.
ACLU – “Georgia is among those states that have no laws to prohibit racial profiling, as the Georgia General Assembly has rejected repeated attempts to pass such a law. Accordingly, law enforcement personnel throughout Georgia may continue to stop individuals based solely on their race or ethnicity, often without any measure of accountability. This is of particular concern in Gwinnett County, where testimonies affirm that officers disproportionately target people of color for pretextual stops, investigations and enforcement.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office and the police agencies in Gwinnett all have anti racial profiling policies. We do not tolerate racial profiling under any circumstances and there are procedures in place to deal with any officer who racially profiles. Their statements above are completely untrue and they have no evidence to back up their allegations.
ACLU – States incidents of racial profiling “have been particularly exacerbated” after 287(g) began and that the ACLU is receiving complaints from “drivers, pedestrians, and Gwinnett community members showing that police officers are targeting immigrants and people of color for stops, searches and interrogations.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Absolutely false. Nothing has been reported to us by any citizen. In fact, the ACLU could have easily verified the accuracy of the ten stories being given to them by the 10 people listed under pseudonyms in their report, but they chose not to even attempt to verify those allegations and instead listed them as fact. We will address those cases point by point later in this document.
ACLU – “Legislation aimed at curtailing unauthorized immigration has caused many officers to unlawfully detain Latinos and other minorities… This latter form of discrimination, which targets individuals based on their purported immigration status, is especially problematic in Gwinnett County.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE –No one is targeting anyone related to their supposed immigration status. The ACLU has absolutely No evidence that this is occurring. On the last pages of their own report, they acknowledge that this is very difficult to prove, yet they state it repeatedly as fact. The complaints they allegedly received from citizens have not even been fact checked.
ACLU – The stated purpose of the 287(g) program is to facilitate collaboration between local officers and ICE, so that the local officers have the ‘necessary resources and latitude to pursue investigations relating to violent crimes, human smuggling, gang/organized crime activity, sexual-related offenses, narcotics smuggling and money laundering.’
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – That is a misrepresentation of the facts. We already have the legal right to investigate those crimes and pursue those investigations. We do not need 287(g) to do so.
ACLU – “The fundamental problem with placing federal immigration enforcement in the hands of local law enforcement is that local officers are not adequately trained in immigration laws and its enforcement. In fact many officers are not trained at all. As such, local authorities, acting pursuant to 287(g), often identify potential immigration violators based solely on an individual’s race and ethnic status.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – First of all, we are not enforcing immigration law. That is up to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Our deputies went through extensive training with ICE to identify jail inmates who are in the United States illegally. Holds on those inmates who are identified are placed under the supervision of ICE and the inmates are turned over to ICE after their charges are adjudicated. Only the trained 287(g) assigned deputies are tasked with identifying individuals in the U.S. illegally. No one is subject to this scrutiny unless they are arrested and brought to the Gwinnett County Jail.
ACLU – “In 287(g) jurisdictions, for example, state or local police with minimal training in immigration law are put on the street with a mandate to arrest ‘illegal aliens.’”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Absolutely false. That does not happen in Gwinnett, period. We are not on the street looking for anyone related to 287(g) and no one is ever asked their status on the street. This agency has never given a mandate to its deputies to arrest illegal aliens and they would have no way of knowing if they were illegal or not in the field.
ACLU – “The predictable and inevitable result is that any person who looks or sounds ‘foreign’ is more likely to be stopped by the police and more likely to be arrested…when stopped.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Absolutely false and there is absolutely no evidence or corroboration supporting their theory.
ACLU – They state that 287(g) is “widely criticized,” and creates distrust.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – That is not true in Gwinnett. The only criticism is coming from groups such as ACLU and ABLE (Atlantans Building Leadership Empowerment), both of whom have put out blatantly false, untruthful and misleading information in order to create hysteria among the immigrant community.
ACLU – They state that immigrants and citizens avoid contact with police agencies because they fear they will be targeted on their immigration status. They fear reporting crimes.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – No person reporting a crime is ever checked for their immigration status. No person is checked period unless they are arrested for committing a crime in Gwinnett County. Anyone reporting a crime has nothing to fear. These groups have put out information that has created that fear and perpetuated it in order to polarize and scare people to further their own agendas.
ACLU – Criticizes the Sheriff’s Department for not updating their website to identify the number of detainers placed or the crimes involved in those detainers.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – False. The Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office has been in the process of changing over our website to a new design. New materials were not immediately uploaded on the old site because of that changeover. The information was placed on our site and has been on our site despite their statements that as of March 2010, we have not put the information on our website. We also participated in numerous media stories regarding 287(g) and the stats associated with it in December and January. The information has been on our website under our jail stats section and has now been placed very prominently on its own so no one can claim they have to look for it.
ACLU – They also accuse us of not putting out information about how we “potentially deport illegal aliens.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – We do not deport anyone. If they fully understood what they were writing about, they would know that.
ACLU – They state that “our failure to document 287(g) detentions and crimes represents the general lack of transparency in the 287(g) reporting procedures”…They also state that we enter data into ENFORCE and cannot pull data out… “As such, the GCSO does not possess a database for identifying stops and arrests made solely through the use of the 287(g) program.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – The ACLU is confused. We do not have a Task Force on the street, and we do not ever make stops and arrests solely through the use of 287(g). We only have a detention program with 287(g). We do document the number of detainers and the crimes associated with them. Data can be pulled out of the ENFORCE system.
ACLU – They state that we are given “wide discretion to question and detain all detainees who enter the jail, even for traffic and non-immigration related infractions.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Everyone who comes to the jail is here for a non-immigration related infraction. We do not arrest people based on their immigration status. That is an absurd statement and shows the lack of knowledge used in preparing this report. We don’t enforce immigration laws. The federal government does. We and other police agencies do enforce traffic and criminal laws.
ACLU – They state even if a “detainee is arrested for a basic traffic violation, such as failing to have the car lights on”…
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – People aren’t arrested just for not having their car lights on.
ACLU – States it is “difficult to determine how the officers choose which detainees to interview and also how they decide which detainees are foreign born. The discretion these rules give to the officers, coupled with the program’s lack of oversight, easily allow for racial profiling.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – It is not so difficult to determine. Every person is asked the same set of questions, including their birth country. That has repeatedly been reported in the news. Again, the program has tremendous oversight and deputies work under the supervision of an ICE agent. There is no racial profiling or proof of racial profiling despite their efforts to make it so.
ACLU – The next few pages deal with alleged “testimonies” and stops in Gwinnett of people not identified by their proper names. They claim they used a secondary source of records provided by our agency and other police agencies in Gwinnett.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – We will take the “testimonies” of these people on a case by case basis giving great latitude in doing so that the stories are accurate. What the ACLU fails to mention is that their Open Records requests never asked for any documentation related to the specific arrest information, incident reports or police call histories with any of these people. They could have easily checked and verified the validity of the stories had they bothered to do so. As it is, we have had no complaints filed and have no way of knowing who these people are and no way to verify or disprove their stories.
ACLU – “Latino drivers are routinely pulled over for reasons that are not clear and then are arrested or given a citation for a traffic violation, such as driving without a license.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Where are the documented stats on that allegation? Every stop is recorded through each police agency’s communications center. Police officers and Sheriff’s deputies do not go out on anything they do not call in by radio. It is against all policies and procedures to do so. Again, if a person is pulled over for violating a traffic law and they do not have a driver’s license, it is an arrestable offense.
ACLU – “Although complaints have come largely from Latino drivers, Gwinnett County also has large Asian and African immigrant populations, and it is likely that these communities are similarly victimized by this form of racial profiling.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – It is likely – Based on what? This statement has no basis in fact, statistics or any other known factor of validity. It is a ridiculous assumption.
ACLU - States that after 287(g) began complaints continue that immigrants are stopped or arrested on “improper grounds.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Where is the record of the stop or arrest and what are the “improper grounds?” The statement has no basis in fact.
ACLU: Case of “Roberto,” an undocumented worker who now avoids driving because he fears police. Roberto and three friends are waiting outside of a church where they were painting for a job. They are outside at 9 p.m. waiting on a ride. A Gwinnett police officer asks them what they are doing. The officers told them they looked suspicious standing near the church. Officers asked where they lived. No one was cited or arrested. Now Roberto does not feel safe and no longer drives.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – A police officer is doing his job and has the right to stop and check someone who looks suspicious. These men were at a church late at night with the church closed. If this occurred, the officer was doing his job by stopping and checking to see what they were doing there and asking them where they lived. Those are standard questions and would have been asked of anyone no matter what their race under those circumstances. By “Roberto’s” own admission, nothing happened to him even though he admits to ACLU he is here illegally. He wasn’t arrested, cited or checked. If he no longer drives because he doesn’t have a driver’s license, that is a good thing. No one should be driving without a license.
ACLU – Pedro has an expired tag and is pulled over. He says he is undocumented and was stopped in Duluth at 10 p.m. while driving home from work. He claims he was stopped by Gwinnett Sheriff’s deputies for an expired tag. He is asked for his driver’s license which he does not have. He is asked other questions, his car is searched without asking and he is arrested. He does not feel he was treated “respectfully” because the officer was “forceful and initially came up to the car with his gun pointed at him.” He makes other allegations about the handcuffs. Pedro no longer goes to areas around Norcross and Doraville. He is reluctant to call police because of his immigration status.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – If the stop happened the way he claims, the officer had every right to stop him on the expired tag. He also had every right to ask him for his driver’s license, which he did not have so he was arrested. His car would be searched subject to impound because he is under arrest. It is unlikely that a Sheriff’s deputy pulled him over, because deputies make a small percentage of traffic stops in Gwinnett. This could easily be verified with the time, date and location of the traffic stop.
PAGES 11, 12, 13, 14, 15:
ACLU – Filiberto is undocumented. He was stopped going to work and was not informed why he was stopped, but believes it was because he was Latino. He is asked for his license, but does not have one. His car was searched without his permission. He was arrested for no driver’s license and his family had to bond him out of jail. This was not his first “traumatic experience” because a few months earlier he had been stopped and arrested for the same thing. “Filiberto is frustrated that this keeps happening to him and that he is ‘stopped just because he is Latino.’” He now avoids police
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Most officers do not know the race of the person they are pulling over. They pull someone over because they are acting suspicious or violating traffic laws. From his own statements, he has been arrested twice and this was prior to 287(g) starting for driving without a license. People who do not have valid driver’s licenses because they have never been licensed to drive here, may not know all of the traffic laws and therefore are stopped for violating them. When they don’t have a license, they go to jail. The same is true for all races of U. S. citizens. There is an easy fix to the problem. Stop committing crimes that are arrestable offenses. If you don’t want to be arrested for driving without a license, don’t drive. If you don’t drive, you can’t violate traffic laws and be pulled over. The officer then can’t determine that you don’t have a license because you are not breaking the law by driving without a license. It is amazing that these groups never say we shouldn’t arrest or check U. S. drivers to see if they have a license – which law enforcement officers do all the time. They just think we shouldn’t check or arrest persons who might be immigrants. Laws are laws and our officers are sworn to uphold them – U.S. citizen or not.
ACLU – Carlos is undocumented and lives in Gwinnett. Carlos was on his way to church and does not have a license. He is stopped but is not arrested and is only cited with a traffic ticket by an officer. They claim they were asked for their immigration documents, but admit they do not understand English well. Carlos feels he is disrespected. He is “concerned that police can just ‘arrest you if you don’t have your papers.’”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Carlos is not arrested and is only cited with a traffic ticket if his story is accurate. Police cannot and do not arrest anyone for not having their papers. Police can and do arrest people for not having a driver’s license. Again, Carlos wasn’t arrested so where is the profiling they keep making accusations about to get him to jail?
ACLU – Mary Babington witnesses police using excessive force on November 24, 2007 in the City of Doraville. She claims she hears and sees things from both her front and back doors on a DUI stop and that police use excessive force.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – She claims to be a former resident of the City of Doraville, which is in DeKalb County and is not in Gwinnett. If she felt she witnessed excessive police force, why didn’t she report it? It is also unclear how she could witness the street and the arrest in the street from both her front and back doors.
ACLU – The following cases are post 287(g). Angelica is arrested at 2:30 a.m. driving home from a party. She was stopped for failing to dim her headlights and they asked for her license. She is undocumented and does not have one. She is arrested. She is checked at the jail and asked to sign many documents that she does not understand. An immigration hold is placed on her. She is awaiting deportation. She has been scared to contact the police in the past.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Angelica is arrested for a valid offense after being stopped for a valid reason. The hold would have been placed on her whether she signed any documents or not. Deputies speak to those who don’t understand English in their native language.
ACLU – Mario has a wreck and the other driver calls the police. He claims Gwinnett Sheriff’s deputies show up to the accident. He is asked for his license and does not have one. He is arrested and an immigration check is done. He is now facing deportation and his family is wary of police. His wife now only drives when she goes to work and not any other time.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Again, Mario has an accident, does not have a license and is arrested on a valid charge. The police call is valid although it was not likely a sheriff’s deputy who arrived. This could easily be checked with the date, time and location information. But why should the ACLU look for facts. His wife should not be driving at all if she is an unlicensed driver because it is against the law.
ACLU – Anton fears the police, is undocumented and unlicensed. He is extorted in a traffic accident by another motorist. He does not report the crime.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Victims of crimes are not checked and have nothing to fear. He was driving unlawfully and in a traffic accident that he says was not his fault. Again, he is breaking the law by driving and because he knows he is breaking the law, he does not want the police called.
ACLU – Woman claims police are running road checks on “Pleasantville” exit on I-85 at DeKalb County line targeting Latino drivers.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – The exit on the county line is Pleasantdale and is in DeKalb County and not Gwinnett. DeKalb does not participate in 287(g).
ACLU – “Aside from 287(g) stops, the GCSO does not have any policies mandating their office to document an individual’s race or immigration status when they stop or detain an individual.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – We do not do 287(g) stops. On all traffic citations and arrests, the race is listed. Immigration status would never be listed in the field because it is never checked in the field.
ACLU – “Norcross also has an official anti-racial profiling policy.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – So does the Sheriff’s Office and every other police agency in Gwinnett.
ACLU – “This general lack of documentation amongst the Gwinnett city police departments is technically not illegal, as Georgia does not require these departments to document race for all investigatory stops. Yet, without such data, it is difficult to determine whether these officers are making stops and arrests based on a proper basis of reasonable suspicion or probable cause, or on the improper basis of race and ethnicity. Indeed, the testimonies in this report indicate that at least some police officers within Gwinnett have based their decision to stop, detain, or arrest an individual on race and ethnicity, in clear violation of the constitutional and international legal standards.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – By their own admission, they don’t have the proper data to determine that racial profiling is occurring yet they have indicted Gwinnett repeatedly for racial profiling. They rely on several unsubstantiated accounts by people who have come forward allegedly to them that they have not even bothered to verify – and two of the incidents by their own information do not even occur in Gwinnett. The information would be simple to verify had they bothered. None of the testimonies prove that any of these people were stopped based on their race.
ACLU – “Specifically, without proper documentation of the stops, detentions and arrests conducted through the use of 287(g), there is no way to ensure that GCSO officers are not engaging in discriminatory practices”…
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – There are no stops, detentions or arrests through 287(g).
ACLU – “If reasonable suspicion exists, an officer can stop a person, ask the person to identify him or herself and ask what the person is doing.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – They have just justified one of their own cases with the man at the church who was waiting for a ride with three others at 9 p.m. at night.
ACLU – If after the stop, there is no information leading to probable cause, the officer must let the person go.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Again, the man at the church was not arrested or cited and was free to go.
ACLU – “The fact that the Justice Department has condemned racial profiling on Fourth and Fourteenth amendment grounds is a positive step in establishing that racial profiling is per se unconstitutional and must be eradicated.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – We couldn’t agree more. We also condemn racial profiling and have policies and procedures in place to guard against it.
ACLU – Gwinnett County’s racial profiling practices violate two treaties…
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – There is absolutely no evidence of racial profiling and we do not engage in racial profiling. The ACLU is so blinded in promoting their agenda that they ignore all facts while indicting law enforcement with false claims.
ACLU – Gwinnett County “as part of the United States is bound…and prohibited from engaging in discrimination based on race, color or national origin.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – We agree and we do not engage in discrimination.
ACLU – “Because Gwinnett’s law enforcement officers propagate racial profiling…
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Where is the evidence of that in this report? There is none because it is not happening. They continue making these statements without any basis in fact.
ACLU – “Racial profiling by law enforcement was already prevalent in Gwinnett even prior to the implementation of 287(g), as the first set of testimonies above demonstrates. The second set of interviews shows that this form of racial profiling has continued after the program’s implementation. Together, these interviews indicate that law enforcement in Gwinnett have abused their power, both given through 287(g) and generally, by engaging in racial profiling and human rights violations targeting the community. Given the testimonies detailing racial profiling practices in this report, it is clear that many Latino community members in Gwinnett have been stopped without probable cause or reasonable suspicion.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – There is absolutely no evidence to substantiate those claims. They did not even attempt to verify the allegations from documents that could have easily been obtained. Their own subsequent statements state they do not have the data to prove that racial profiling is happening or if the stops are legitimate on the 10 people they spoke to.
ACLU – They state the 287(g) program “must end in Gwinnett. This program has merely exacerbated racial profiling concerns.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – There is absolutely no evidence of that and they cannot substantiate their claims.
ACLU – They state “roadblocks” in Gwinnett “appear to have become more prevalent after 287(g) was implemented.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Where is there evidence of that? They have not produced one shred of evidence that roadblocks are even occurring except for one woman’s statement about a roadblock in DeKalb County, much less that they have increased. They are big on using words like it likely is occurring or it appears to be happening without any substantiated facts.
ACLU – They ask for a law prohibiting racial profiling and state without this law, “Gwinnett county (sic) and city police officers are not mandated to train their officers regarding racial profiling.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – We already train our officers regarding racial profiling and our own policies and procedures prohibit it.
ACLU – The “Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department is required to maintain a comprehensive record of all arrestees detailing their race, age, gender and other characteristics. This information must be available by the Sheriff’s Department to the public.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – We do and it is.
ACLU – They state that our online data regarding inmates does not state an inmate’s race. They state that they received a more detailed database under Open Records which lists race, but they don’t know why we don’t produce the inmates’ race online.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Our online data contains the inmate’s picture, which in almost all cases would clearly show race. We are not required to produce any of these records online to the public, but we do as a courtesy to the public.
ACLU – They state five states mandate that officers are disciplined for racial profiling.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – The policies of the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office dictates the same if a deputy is found to have been involved in racial profiling.
ACLU – They claim 287(g) is a tool to arrest Latinos who commit minor traffic violations and that they receive harsh punishments for minor infractions.
GWINNET SHERIFF’S OFFICE – They are punished for the crime they committed the same as anyone else. If they are deported, it is because they violated federal laws by coming here illegally and that is done by the federal government not by police or deputies.
ACLU – They claim citizens are scared to contact police.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Much of this hysteria is coming from groups like the ACLU and ABLE who are not interested in putting out factual information, but in creating hysteria to further their own causes. The truth is no victim of a crime ever has anything to fear by contacting police. The only ones who have anything to fear are those people who are breaking the law and are arrested.
ACLU – Again, they claim we will continue to violate federal and international laws by racially profiling.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Again, we do not tolerate racial profiling and have policies in place against it.
ACLU – Calls for ICE to end the 287(g) program with the Gwinnett Sheriff’s Office stating it lacks the proper oversight mechanisms and allows for abuse of power.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – The program is overseen by ICE and there is no abuse of power.
ACLU – Gwinnett SO should end the program with ICE. The program has “dramatically decreased community safety through diminishing trust between Gwinnett enforcement and immigrants.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – The only groups doing that are the ACLU, ABLE and a few others who are creating hysteria and printing and publishing lies in their reports and online that they know are not factual.
ACLU – Members of the Gwinnett community have requested meetings with the Sheriff’s Office and have received no response.
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Not true.
ACLU – By passing anti-racial profiling legislation, it adds a level of accountability and oversight to the policies of Gwinnett law enforcement
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – That accountability is already there and in place in our policies.
ACLU – Law enforcement agencies should document all investigatory stops. Without this information, “it is difficult to tell which individuals are being stopped and why the officers chose to stop them.”
GWINNETT SHERIFF’S OFFICE – Law enforcement agencies do have documentation on all police stops through radio communication and call histories as well as on citations and the jail docket. Further, if it is difficult to tell what is going on in these stops, then how can the ACLU’s report state it is occurring and prevalent when their own report states it is difficult to tell. Which is it?
This report by the ACLU is slanderous and attempts to convict the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office through lies and innuendo. If this is the best that can be done by this organization, I suggest the group should find more capable members to promote disbanding enforcement of the immigration laws of the United States. This was truly a pitiful attempt.
Sheriff Butch Conway