Jackson Co. Sheriff's Office Changes Checkpoint Policies Following ACLU-NC Investigation

October 29, 2013 12:00 am

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JACKSON COUNTY, N.C. – More than a year after the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) launched an investigation into complaints about vehicle checkpoints conducted by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Jackson County Sheriff Jimmy Ashe today announced that his department would reform its vehicle checkpoint policies.

“We are very pleased that Sheriff Ashe has agreed to implement these much-needed reforms to his department’s checkpoint policy,” said Raul Pinto, staff attorney for the ACLU-NCLF. “Our investigation into the way the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office conducted vehicle checkpoints found many problematic practices – from the inadequate documentation of checkpoints to the sheriff’s office’s troubling coordination with federal immigration officers – that we hope will now be corrected through these reforms. We will continue to monitor this situation and urge any community members who feel their rights have been violated to contact our office.”

After a year of dialogue with the ACLU-NCLF that included an in-person meeting, Sheriff Ashe agreed to the following reforms:

  • The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) will no longer coordinate vehicle checkpoints with federal immigration officers such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
  • JSCO deputies will now use standardized forms to document future checkpoints.
  • JSCO will comply with applicable law for reporting demographic information of drivers stopped at checkpoints to the North Carolina Department of Justice.
  • JSCO will comply with applicable law regarding the use of in-car cameras to record checkpoints whenever possible.
  • JSCO will implement additional training for officers concerning the execution of checkpoints.

The original investigation stemmed from dozens of complaints the ACLU-NCLF received from community members about the potential targeting of minorities at JSCO checkpoints. Several of the complaints concerned a May 15, 2012, “seat belt” checkpoint JSCO executed in Tuckasegee with assistance from federal ICE officers that resulted in the arrest of 15 undocumented immigrants.

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