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ACLU Anti-Gypsy Scams Letter

ACLU Anti-Gypsy Scams Letter

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Published by: Nick on Jul 17, 2012
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07/17/2012

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Stephen Meswarb, Co-Acting Executive DirectorMark Silverstein, Legal Director, Co-Acting Executive Director
 
303 E. 17
th
Avenue, Suite 350
*
Denver, CO 80203
*
303.777.5482
*
FAX 303.777.1773
*
www.aclu-co.org
 
 ACLU of Colorado… Because Freedom Can’t Protect Itsel
 
July 16, 2012
VIA ELECTRONIC MAIL
Sheriff J. Grayson RobinsonArapahoe County Sheriff’s Office13101 E. Broncos ParkwayCentennial, Colorado 80112grobinson@co.arapahoe.co.us Re: Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Alert: Gypsy ScamsDear Sheriff Robinson,We are writing because of an Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Alert regarding “Gypsy scams”that was reported to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Colorado (ACLU). (Seeattached Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Alert). This “alert” cautioning the public to bewareof “Gypsies” is extremely concerning to the ACLU given its use and encouragement of racialprofiling.
By characterizing dark-haired, dark-eyed individuals as “Gypsies” and criminals, theArapahoe County Sheriff’s Office Alert invites racial profiling.
The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office alert describes “Gypsies” as “medium to dark complexioned Caucasian[s], who are often mistaken as Hispanic. Dark hair and dark eyes arecommon characteristics.” It further states that “Gypsies” commit major crimes including: homerepair fraud, ruse entry burglary, and burglary, and that “Gypsies . . . who commit these types of crimes are usually career criminals.” It cautions community members to “CALL THEARAPAHOE COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE” to report concerns about “Gypsies.”The physical description provided in the alert – “medium to dark complexioned Caucasians”with “dark hair and dark eyes” – encompasses a large segment of the population. Referring toindividuals who fit this description as “Gypsies” and insinuating that they commit major crimescan only serve to heighten any preexisting biases that community members may already haveagainst all ethnic groups who fit this general description, including Latinos. The ACLU of 
 
 
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Colorado is concerned that your alert encourages community members, as well as police officers,to engage in racial profiling. By cautioning the public to regard all individuals who match thephysical description provided in your alert with suspicion, you are subjecting countless innocentindividuals to the risk of potential discrimination and harassment.
Similar discriminatory bulletins targeting Gypsies have resulted in litigation against otherpolice departments.
In Cherry Hill, New Jersey, several individuals of Roma ethnicity brought suit against the CherryHill Police Department, alleging that the bulletins promulgated by the police department resultedin racial profiling.
 Demetro v. City of Cherry Hill
, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134636, *3 (D.N.J.Nov. 22, 2011). Plaintiffs argued that these bulletins regarding possible “Gypsy” activityresulted in police officers “target[ing] and singl[ing] out, selectively detain[ing], and/orprosecut[ing] individuals suspected of being a Roma (Gypsy).”
 Id.
at *4 -*5. The court statedthat it was “disturbed” by the police department’s distribution of bulletins which sweepinglyreferred to “Gypsies” as “transient criminal families and individuals.”
 Id 
. at *18.The ACLU of Colorado is concerned that Arapahoe County’s alert has similar effects, incitingpolice officers as well as community members to target and to discriminate against individualssuspected of being “Gypsies” because of their physical features.
We urge you to stop inviting racial profiling by insinuating that all dark-haired, dark-eyedindividuals are potential criminals.
We ask that you immediately rescind the discriminatory alert as well as any other alerts issued bythe Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Department that refer to “Gypsies” or “Gypsy scams” in any way.Additionally, we ask that you issue a statement to the public, in which you (1) retract yourprevious comments related to “Gypsies” and “Gypsy scams,” and (2) declare that the Sheriff’sOffice condemns discrimination against any individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity, andpersonal appearance.
We ask that you produce all records related to “Gypsies” and “Gypsy scams.”
Finally, we request that you produce certain records pursuant to the Colorado Open Records Act.If you are not the proper custodian of records for this request, please forward this request on tothe appropriate designee. For the purpose of these requests, the term “records” refers to anyrecorded information, whether kept in written, electronic, or any other form, as defined by C.R.S.§§ 24-72-202(7) & 24-72-302(1) & (4). We request the following records:
 
 
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1) Records of any tips that have been reported to the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office inresponse to the aforementioned alert and crime prevention tip, and any other similar alertsissued by your office, regarding “Gypsies” and “Gypsy scams”;2) All records, communications, or notes (including emails) created by the Sheriff’sOffice and its employees related to “Gypsies” and “Gypsy scams”; and3) Any policies (whether written or unwritten, official or unofficial) that address theSheriff Department’s direction to its employees with regard to “Gypsies” and “Gypsyscams.”I look forward to your response to our request for records at your earliest convenience, and nolater than three business days, as required by Colorado law. Additionally, we request that yourespond to the remainder of our concerns or before July 27, 2012, outlining the steps you willtake to ensure Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office is not engaging in or encouraging the use of racial profiling. Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.Sincerely,Sara J. RichStaff Attorney

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