ACLU of North Carolina and Other North Carolina Civil Rights Groups Launch Investigation Into Johnston County Sheriff's Office After Sheriff Makes Racially Inflammatory Comments About Latinos to the Raleigh News & Observer

September 9, 2008 12:00 am

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      RALEIGH – The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF), along with representatives from other North Carolina civil rights organizations, announced that they were deeply alarmed by racially inflammatory comments attributed to Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell in the Raleigh News & Observer on Sunday, September 7, 2008.

      This morning, the groups launched an investigation and filed a formal public records request, demanding public records and documents from Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell pertaining to DWI checkpoints, driver’s license checkpoints, arrests, jail bookings, and information pertaining to whether the County has fully complied with North Carolina state law that prohibits racial or ethnic profiling by law enforcement. The ACLU-NCLF and other local civil rights groups allege that Sheriff Bizzell’s statements in the September 7th article constitute direct evidence of racial discrimination and hostility toward Latino citizens and residents of Johnston County. Examples of such statements attributed to Bizzell include:

      • Pointing to tiendas that have cropped up amid local barbecue joints, saying, “You can’t even read the durned sign. Everywhere you look, it’s like little Mexico around here.”

      • Condemning undocumented Latino immigrants for “breeding like rabbits” and for spreading a culture of drunkenness and violence, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

      • Claiming that undocumented Latino immigrants “rape, rob and murder” American citizens, fail to pay taxes and drain social services, again despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

      • “How long is it going to be until we’re the minority?”

      • “Mexicans are trashy.”

      • “When people think about illegal Mexicans, you know the first thing they think of?” Bizzell says – “driving drunk and shooting.”

      “Blanket assertions like this about an entire class of people, again despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, if put into practice, are the very essence of racial and ethnic profiling by law enforcement that are prohibited under state law,” said Jennifer Rudinger, Executive Director of the ACLU of North Carolina. “Our investigation aims to find out whether Sheriff Bizzell or any of his deputies have engaged in racial or ethnic profiling or discrimination in how they enforce the laws in Johnston County.”

      The groups have demanded that the Sheriff’s Office comply with their public records request no later than Friday, September 19, 2008.

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