Justice Department to Investigate Discrimination Against Project Residents

DOJ plans to find out whether there has been a systematic pattern of discrimination against Black residents of housing projects in Los Angeles County.

Posted: 08/22/2011 12:19 PM EDT
Filed Under Racism

Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

For years, Black communities have complained that local police spend an undue amount of time patrolling for and arresting residents of housing projects. Now, the diligent complaints of two communities in L.A. are paying off.

The Department of Justice is opening an investigation into law enforcement activity in Palmdale and Lancaster, where residents say they are unfairly targeted by police and subject to harsh and illegal investigation tactics.

“Our goal is clear: to find the truth and figure out what is happening in Lancaster and Palmdale,” Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said in a statement Friday.

Residents of Palmdale and Lancaster allege that the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has tried to identify Section 8 residents during routine traffic stops, and conducted warrantless searches of homes under the guise of conducting inspections on behalf of the housing authority; including conducting searches and questioning in full SWAT gear with guns drawn.

“Every time I look up, the police are over here,” Palmdale resident Doriann Johnson said. “They think everybody is a suspect. It’s all day, every day.”

The investigation will focus on the actions of the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department as well as the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, and the Los Angeles County Housing Authority to look into whether there has been a systemic effort to discriminate against African-Americans.  

The Department of Justice will determine whether the LASD has violated Section 14141, which is the police reform provision enacted in the aftermath of the Rodney King incident that gives the agency the authority to investigate patterns or practices of the deprivation of constitutional rights or violations of federal law. The agency will also investigate the housing authority and both cities under the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, national origin and other protected categories

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