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LATIN KINGS AND QUEENS NATION, an unincorporated association, and JORGE CORNELL, CARLOS COLEMAN, RANDOLPH KILFOIL, RUSSELL KILFOIL, CHARLES MOORE, JUSTINE PARATORE, RICHARD ROBINSON, LUIS ROSA, VANESSA THORPE-DAVIS, FIDEL VALDEZ, and SAMUEL VELASQUEZ Complainants, v. GREENSBORO POLICE DEPARTMENT and and the CITY OF GREENSBORO Respondents. ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) ) )
COMPLAINT UNDER TITLE VI OF THE CIVIL RIGHTS ACT OF 1964
The Complainants are an organization and several of its members who have been subjected to arrests without probable cause, repeated harassment, loss of their jobs, imprisonment, physical assaults and damage to their reputation by officers of the Greensboro Police Department on account of their race, ethnicity and national origin. Upon information and belief, the Greensboro Police Department (hereinafter “GPD”), administered by the City of Greensboro, is a recipient of federal financial assistance. (Ex. A). Therefore, the actions of the Department as detailed herein, are in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Complainants seek remedies for the intentionally discriminatory acts by the respondents which include targeting the Almighty Latin Kings and Queens Nation (hereinafter “ALKQN or Latin Kings”) and its members for harassment without cause because of their race, ethnicity and national origin. In addition, Complainants seek remedies for the policies and practices of the GPD that have a disparate impact on them on the basis of their race, ethnicity and national origin; and thereby subjects Complainants to discrimination on the basis of their race, or national origin. The GPD has systematically discriminated against and harassed ALKQN members since the group’s formation in 2005. There is evidence showing that the Greensboro Police Department’s anti-Latino bias causes it to intentionally target ALKQN members for deportation, bring baseless charges against them, and subject them to unlawful and discriminatory traffic
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stops, nonconsensual searches, and false arrests often involving the use of excessive force. GPD gang unit officers have visited ALKQN members’ places of work and residence without an investigatory purpose and spoken to members’ job supervisors and landlords, causing members to lose their jobs and homes. As long as this problem goes unresolved, ALKQN members will continue to become more isolated from the broader community and will continue to suffer severe economic losses as they are forced to pay inordinately high bond amounts and attorneys’ fees defending themselves against meritless criminal charges. Greensboro Police Department’s “top-down enforcement strategy,” by which it purportedly aims to disrupt criminal gang organizations, has disproportionately and adversely affected those Greensboro Latinos who have committed no crime by joining ALKQN. The record of complaints submitted to the Complaint Review Committee over the past five years, along with other evidence, indicates that similarly situated white and African-American members of other Greensboro gangs have not been adversely impacted as ALKQN members have. One of the most glaringly obvious ways in which ALKQN has been adversely impacted is seen by examining its members’ felony conviction rate. From late 2005 through early 2010, Greensboro ALKQN members were convicted of less than eleven percent of all felony charges. Jordan Green, Charges of Corruption Put GPD Under Scrutiny, Yes!Weekly, May 26, 2010, at 15. In comparison, an analysis of the statistics available from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts indicates that the conviction rate for all felony charges filed in Guilford County (of which Greensboro is a part) is 65.4 percent. Id. This shockingly low conviction rate is explained by the fact that GPD’s gang unit officers constantly follow and harass ALKQN members seeking any pretext to make an arrest, and do not hesitate to bring meritless charges against the members, whether they be misdemeanor or felony crimes. The GPD’s history of racially discriminatory employment practices, athough not directly related to the racially discriminatory harassment of ALKQN, stems from the same “cowboy” subculture that exists among certain white officers within the department. As Greensboro’s Reverend Nelson Johnson put it: “There is a group of white police officers who see themselves as cowboys and above the law. These officers are even beyond the Sheriff’s control. Unless and until a thorough investigation of this police department is done, the most appropriate remedies will not be clear.” We urge the Department of Justice to investigate the Greensboro Police Department’s discriminatory treatment of the Complainants and to work with the Greensboro Police Department to eradicate these discriminatory practices. I. Background: Race Relations in the City of Greensboro
On November 3, 1979, a group of Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazi members descended upon an anti-KKK rally, shooting five marchers dead. The Greensboro Police Department did not provide officers for the march as was its normal practice for any type of protest. An all-white jury acquitted the accused murderers, but in 1985 a judgment of $350,000 was entered against the city of Greensboro—including five police officers—for having violated the marchers’ civil rights. Despite opposition from the Greensboro City Council, in 2005 Greensboro residents
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formed a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate what had caused the massacre. The Commission found that the Greensboro Police Department had been aware of the attackers’ plans and aware that there existed a high probability of violence, and nonetheless failed to assign officers to the event. In the 1990s large numbers of Latinos began arriving in Greensboro and other parts of North Carolina for the first time. Greensboro’s Latino population jumped up four percent between 2002 and 2003, and by 2003 there were nearly 27,000 Latinos residing in the city. The majority of Greensboro’s Latinos are undocumented immigrants from Mexico. North Carolina currently has more 287 (g) jurisdictions than any other state. In 2006 Mecklenburg County became the first county in North Carolina to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) adopting the 287(g) program. Although 287 (g) was originally touted as a way of apprehending “dangerous criminal aliens,” in practice 287(g) in North Carolina has provided the mechanism by which racist law enforcement officers can target Hispanic drivers for arrest and deportation without fear of reprisal. In July of 2009, Guilford County became yet another North Carolina county to adopt the 287 (g) program, but only after a heated community debate. Hundreds of Guilford County residents attended a community meeting in March of 2009 to express their concerns regarding the county’s planned implementation of the program. At this meeting, a citizen asked Guilford County Sheriff BJ Barnes how he had been able, during the course of a traffic stop, to identify the driver as Latino. The Sheriff famously responded: “I could tell because of the kind of music he had going.” Kathleen Jordan, Sheriff B.J. Barnes Engaged in Heated Exchange Over 287 (g) Policy, Beloved Community Center’s News & View, Apr. 2, 2009. In 2006, former Greensboro Police Officer and Latino A.J. Blake—who would, in 2007, become the only officer of color assigned to the gang unit—filed a complaint against white sergeant Hafekaneyer for describing Latinos as wet-backs and for saying that Latinos all looked like illegal aliens. Blake later filed a complaint against white officer Ashley Brown for saying that since everyone from Honduras is a gang member, Blake, who is Honduran, must also be a gang member. Press Release, Officer A.J. Blake, Public Statement by Greensboro Police Officer A.J. Blake (June 2, 2009) (on file in the Beloved Community Center’s “News & View” archives). In 2006, a group of non-white police officers filed a complaint against the city of Greensboro with the United States Equal Opportunity Employment Commission alleging employment discrimination. On January 9, 2009, forty-four African-American officers sued the city of Greensboro for employment discrimination. Police Officers File Discrimination Lawsuit, News & Record, Jan. 9, 2009. Shortly after suit was filed, the GPD leadership promoted African-American officer and plaintiff Tim Bellamy to the rank of police chief. Following his promotion, Bellamy quickly dropped out of the suit. The lawsuit is still pending. The Greensboro Police Department is currently in the process of declaring unfit for duty, and firing, a number of African-American officers involved in the pending employment discrimination lawsuit. Specifically, the GPD is currently attempting to fire Captain Cherry who
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has long been known as one of the best officers on the force. In addition to his involvement in the lawsuit against the city, Captain Cherry has also filed a number of grievances against highranking GPD officers. On Monday, August 16, 2010, the Greensboro Police Department retaliated against former gang unit Latino Officer A.J. Blake by firing him a second time. The GPD had fired Blake for the first time in 2009, shortly after Blake blew the whistle on the department by speaking to the press about certain officers’ anti-Latino bias and the gang unit’s racist harassment of ALKQN. Press Release, Officer A.J. Blake, Public Statement by Greensboro Police Officer A.J. Blake (June 2, 2009) (on file in the Beloved Community Center’s “News & View” archives). Officer Blake had then been quickly reinstated but put on leave without pay for an extended period. Like Captain Cherry, Blake is also a plaintiff in the pending employment discrimination suit against the city. Also like Cherry, Blake has filed grievances alleging racist practices among some of the force’s most high-ranking officers. From 2008 through present day, a group of Greensboro ministers known as the Pulpit Forum of Clergy Members has spoken out about the GPD’s harassment of ALKQN. Several of these ministers, along with students calling themselves “Spirit of the Sit-in Movement,” recently participated in a civil disobedience action by using city council meetings to bring to light the ongoing culture of racism and corruption within the Greensboro Police Department. Also this year, North Carolina NAACP President Reverend Barber sent a letter to the North Carolina Attorney General and United States Senator Kay Hagan stating that “The GPD is deeply embroiled in a culture of corruption and a pattern of unequal application of the laws.” Jordan Green, Charges of Corruption Put GPD Under Scrutiny, Yes!Weekly, May 26, 2010. II. History of Greensboro’s chapter of the Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation
Jorge Cornell, a United States citizen of Puerto Rican descent, felt motivated to create the Greensboro ALKQN chapter in September of 2005. This was the year that Cornell, a New York transplant, began exploring his adopted city and discovered that Greensboro Police Department officers were mistreating Latinos. As Cornell talked to Latinos around the city, he discovered that GPD officers were searching the homes of undocumented immigrants without warrants. Cornell even heard stories of undocumented women who had been raped by police officers but did not report the crimes for fear of deportation. The turning point for Cornell came one night in 2005 when he witnessed GPD officers enter a local bar immediately following a car accident involving Latinos and falsely charge four innocent Hispanic men with hit-and-run. After this incident Cornell decided to start a chapter of ALKQN as a way of uplifting the Latino community and giving a voice to Greensboro’s voiceless undocumented immigrants. Since founding ALKQN, Cornell has had a strict policy against members committing crimes, including using or selling drugs. This corresponds to Cornell’s vision of ALKQN as a tool for uplifting, rather than destroying, the community. If an ALKQN member is discovered to
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be using drugs, the other members help him to overcome his addiction or, if this fails, ask him to leave the group. Cornell stepped up his community activism on June 30, 2008 when he held a press conference at Greensboro’s Faith Community Church calling for peace among the city’s gangs. At the press conference Cornell stated: My goal is to bring peace to the streets, black, brown, come together as one. I’m asking for all Bloods, Crips, MS-13, Sur Trece, everybody out there that represents something to put your weapons down and let’s come to a table, so we can talk peace. Jordan Green, Gang Leader’s Social-Justice Vision Belied by Criminal Associations, Yes!Weekly, July 9, 2008, at 1. In July of 2008, Cornell continued this work by initiating the drafting of a peace agreement among ALKQN, Almighty Black Peace Stone Nation, Crips, Five Percenters, Piru Bloods and Nation of Islam. (Ex B) III. History and philosophy of the Greensboro Police Department’s gang unit
In 2005, Jorge Cornell went to the courthouse where his fellow ALKQN members Randolph Kilfoil, Daniel Vasquez and Robert Vasquez were being held under arrest awaiting a hearing with the Magistrate. Cornell went to find out what his friends’ charges were and how high their bonds would be set. Cornell took a seat behind a glass window, from where he could see his biological brother Randolph Kilfoil being questioned by the Magistrate. When Kilfoil failed to answer one of the Magistrate’s questions, a GPD officer smacked him in the back of the head. Cornell banged on the glass and told the officer not to hit his brother. The officers arrested Cornell for contempt and threw him in a cell. From the cell, Cornell could still see everything that was going on. He saw the officers mace Kilfoil, Daniel and Robert, and handcuff the mens’ arms and feet. After the men had been completely restrained and maced, white Officer R.A. Watkins stormed into the room and began beating the men with his night stick. Cornell yelled out, “They’re handcuffed, you don’t need to do that!” Hearing this further enraged Watkins, who began to jam his night stick through Cornell’s cell bars and attempted to open the cell doors. This was Cornell’s first encounter with Watkins, who would later join the gang unit and become a prominent harasser of ALKQN members. Prior to 2007, Officer Ernest Cupasin (sp) was the Greensboro Police Department’s oneman gang unit. He regularly harassed ALKQN members. For example, when a group of ALKQN members would play soccer or some other sport, Cupasin would call up a whole fleet of police vehicles to disrupt the peaceful game. In November of 2007, the Greensboro City Council created a gang unit to address growing community concern over the gang activities of the Bloods, Crips, SUR 13, MS 13, Norteno, Rubio 18, Southside 13, TCS 13, TRG, VGS, Vice Lords, and ALKQN. (Ex. L at.1-3)
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One and a half million dollars was set aside for the project, the original plan being to hire gangexpert officers from outside the GPD force. Rather than hire gang experts from outside the department, the GPD simply corralled various officers from within its own ranks, none of whom were gang experts, and labeled the group the gang unit. From July 2008 through February of 2010, this gang unit made 474 criminal arrests, and from fiscal year 2007 through fiscal year 2009, 1181 gang-related offenses were reported to the unit. (Id.) Although the overwhelming majority of those arrested were people of color, for most of the unit’s history A.J. Blake has been its only non-white officer. (Id.) In the name of crime reduction, the gang unit adopted a strategy of suppression: a “topdown enforcement strategy to disrupt criminal gang organizations.” This tactic of disruption, as applied to ALKQN, was to consist of targeting ALKQN’s command structure in order to reduce the gang’s criminal behavior, impede its ability to recruit new members, and “neutralize [the] gang’s negative effect on our community.” (Ex. L at.1) Additionally, the gang unit aimed to provide “visibility of efforts” in the course of targeting identified gang members. (Ex. L at.1) At a press conference held at New Light Missionary Baptist Church on June 2, 2009, officer and former gang-unit member AJ Blake recounted for reporters the details of his recent conversation with his gang-unit supervisor, Sergeant Ronald Sizemore: Over the last eighteen months or so the Greensboro Police Department’s Gang Unit has had a stepped up focus on gang activity. This has been focused mainly on Latino gangs. When I indicated that there was other more serious gang activity than the harassment type activities in which we were engaged, Sergeant Sizemore said that his image of a gang member is a Latino male. Press Release, Officer A.J. Blake, Public Statement by Greensboro Police Officer A.J. Blake (June 2, 2009) (on file in the Beloved Community Center’s “News & View” archives). Blake went on to add that Sizemore—who was taking orders from Captain John Wolfe—had instructed Blake to focus attention exclusively on ALKQN and to charge ALKQN members “with any possible violations that we could.” Keith Barber, ’09 Local News in Review, Yes!Weekly, December 30, 2009. IV. The Facts: A Chronology of the Greensboro Police Department’s Harassment of Latin King members
On December 1, 2007, one month after the gang unit’s formation, ALKQN leader Jorge Cornell had parked in his friend’s driveway and was walking toward her house to pick her up for a party when about thirty GPD cars pulled up and officers walked toward Cornell’s car with guns drawn, ordering him back in his vehicle. Cornell obeyed the order, returning to his car and sitting with his hands on the dashboard. The officers then ordered Cornell out of the car and told him to get down on his knees and put his hands on his head. They next had Cornell lay down on the ground and as he lay prostrate Officer Finch twisted his arm behind his back and handcuffed
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him. One officer said to Cornell: “You’re not shit, you don’t run Greensboro.” As the officer said this, Officer Finch rammed Cornell’s face into the ground. When Cornell moved his neck in an attempt to protect his face, several officers began beating him. One officer hit Cornell in the head with a flashlight. The officers later charged Cornell with assault, claiming that Cornell had somehow attacked them from his handcuffed position on the ground. (Ex. I at.1) Cornell was acquitted of this charge in December of 2008. Following this incident, Cornell approached and attempted to enter the Melvin Municipal Office Building in order to file a complaint with the city’s Complaint Review Committee. Cornell was denied entry by an Internal Affairs employee who told him that because he was a gang member he could not enter the building. (Ex. I at.1) As Cornell put it: “We said we have rights but he said ‘no you don’t because you’re a gang member.’” On February 12, 2008, gang unit officers kicked in ALKQN member Anthony Vasquez’s door and searched his house using a warrant under Jorge Cornell’s name. According to Cornell, the gang unit was searching the house in the hopes of finding drugs and guns. The GPD found half an ounce of marijuana on Keeler, but proceeded to charge Vasquez with possession and intent to sell and distribute. On February 18, 2008, the gang unit arrested Cornell and charged him with maintaining a dwelling, since his name was on the water bill. (Ex. I at.1-2) In February of 2008, the Greensboro Police Department charged ALKQN members Jorge Cornell and Russell Kilfoil with ten counts of Conspiracy to Embezzle. However, the D.A. dropped all of the charges against Cornell and Kilfoil, citing lack of evidence. Cornell’s defense attorney Georgia Nixon, reported that the D.A. had told her, with respect to these charges against Cornell: “Based on what the officer turned in, we have to dismiss this.” Jordan Green, Jorge Cornell Called for Gang Peace…So Why Does He Look Like a Marked Man?, Yes!Weekly, Nov. 19, 2008. In May of 2008, the GPD filed a warrant for ALKQN member Samuel Velasquez’s arrest on a first degree attempted murder charge, despite the fact that a different person had been identified as the shooter. (Ex. L and Ex. F at 3) Velasquez, a United States citizen born in Washington D.C., is of Salvadoran and Puerto Rican descent. However, authorities used supposed doubts regarding his immigration status as a pretext for setting his bond at $250,000. Jordan Green, Jorge Cornell Called for Gang Peace…So Why Does He Look Like a Marked Man?, Yes!Weekly, Nov. 19, 2008. Velasquez spent five months in the Guilford County Jail before Assistant D.A. Christopher Parrish finally dismissed the charge for lack of sufficient evidence. Id. In the complaint Velasquez lodged with the Complaint Review Committee following his release, Velasquez stated that if the GPD had simply looked at his work time card from the date in question, this would have proven he was working in a city over an hour away at the time of the assault. (Ex. F at 3) When Velasquez contacted the CRC to follow up about his complaint, he was informed that the GPD was passing off responsibility for his treatment to the Sheriff’s department. There is no mechanism for filing a complaint with the Sheriff’s department and so Velasquez had no further remedy.
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On June 26, 2008, Jorge Cornell met with Reverend Nelson Johnson to seek help in gaining access to the city’s complaint process. Reverend Johnson contacted Dr. Anthony Wade of Greensboro’s Human Relations Department, and in July Dr. Wade accompanied Cornell and his brother (and fellow ALKQN members) Randolph Kilfoil to the Melvin Municipal Office Building. The brothers waited outside while Dr. Wade entered the building. A few minutes later Dr. Wade stepped outside and indicated that it was safe for them to go inside. Cornell and Kilfoil then entered the building for the first time, accompanied by Dr. Wade, to file a complaint with the Complaint Review Committee. Thanks to the delay caused by Cornell’s lack of access to the municipal building wherein the CRC office is located, over six months passed between the incident of police abuse and filing of the complaint with the CRC. In 2008 ALKQN member Jason Yates was living at the Cedar Trace apartment complex in Greensboro. Greensboro police officers paid visits to the apartment’s office manager on several occasions and told her that Jason Yates and his friends were members of ALKQN. One officer told the apartment manager that she should change the car she drove, because if she did not the ALKQN members would recognize her when she pulled up and kill her. On August 11, 2008 Cornell was shot at Cedar Trace apartment complex while picking up his daughter. At this time the Greensboro Police Department was conducting around-theclock surveillance of Jorge Cornell, and may have even been renting an apartment unit at Cedar Trace. Twenty minutes prior to the shooting, Officer Ronald Sizemore ordered the officers monitoring Cornell to return to the office to file paperwork. The Greensboro Police Department has refused to give an explanation of why it acted in this way. On the day following the shooting, Cornell’s mentor Reverend Nelson Johnson held a press conference at which he expressed Cornell’s forgiveness of whoever had shot him, and Cornell’s plea that there be no retaliation. Officer Blake later reported that while interviewing ALKQN member Cesar Herrera, white gang unit officer Sizemore interrupted the interview, began shouting at Herrera and “said that he wished that Jorge Cornell…had been killed. It was not said in a joking manner.” Press Release, Officer A.J. Blake, Public Statement by Greensboro Police Officer A.J. Blake (June 2, 2009) (on file in the Beloved Community Center’s “News & View” archives). Sizemore later admitted to reporter Jordan Green that he had in fact said something similar to this, but intended it as a joke, “probably in bad taste.” Jordan Green, Jorge Cornell Called for Gang Peace…So Why Does He Look Like a Marked Man?, Yes!Weekly, Nov. 19, 2008. In September of 2008, Cornell discovered that Officer Blake had moved in next door to Cornell’s ex-wife and was pretending to be a mechanic as a way of getting close to her. Blake even took Cornell’s daughters to the movie theater. Cornell filed a complaint with the Complaint Review Committee but to date the CRC has not completed its investigation into this matter. (Ex. I at 2) On November 8, 2008 a GPD officer approached sixteen-year old ALKQN member Jackie Benitez and began to verbally assault her, telling her that he liked her, that he was
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working on getting her out of the gang and that he “wasn’t messing around.” Part of this conversation was recorded on a cell phone. (Ex. I at 1) On Saturday, December 20, 2008, at approximately eleven a.m., seven ALKQN members and a four-year old boy were at the Beloved Community Center waiting to meet with Reverend Nelson Johnson. ALKQN members Allan Jordan and three others arrived first, and while they waited for the Reverend inside of the Center’s fenced-in area, a white, female GPD officer arrived and parked across the street. The officer soon approached the group members and accused them of loitering. The members responded that they were waiting for Reverend Johnson to arrive and open the Center. Lacking probable cause or consent, the white officer nonetheless proceeded to place Allan Jordan against the fence, remove his coat and search him. The ALKQN members filed a complaint regarding this incident with the Complaint Review Committee, but no violation was found to have occurred. (Ex. C) On March 25, 2009, ALKQN member Wesley Williams’ dog escaped from Williams’ house and got into a fight with a neighborhood dog. Animal Control verified that close to forty GPD officers arrived for this neighborhood dog fight. Although Williams’ dog had no history of previous fighting or aggression, the officers cocked a shot gun and threatened to tase the dog while it was in Kilfoils’ arms. Officer Sizemore then approached Wesley Williams’ house with over twenty officers and began to question Jorge Cornell and Alan Vasquez. One officer pointed a taser at Vasquez while another tried to search him. Vasquez told the officer he did not consent to the search and tried to move away, but then two officers grabbed and held him while the first officer completed the unlawful search. When Mr. Vasquez asked for the officers’ names, many refused to give them, some placing their hands over their badges and others closing their rain jackets to conceal their badges. Gang unit officer Sizemore then convinced Animal Control to impound Williams’ dog rather than simply have Williams take the dog to the veterinarian for medical care, as Animal Control had advised Williams prior to Sizemore’s arrival. ALKQN filed a complaint with the Complaint Review Committee, but once again no officer was found to be in violation. (Ex. D) On April 1, 2009, ALKQN member Luis Rosa attended a community meeting held by Sheriff Barnes and GPD Chief Tim Bellamy to answer community members’ concerns regarding implementation of the 287g program in Guilford County. After the meeting, Rosa began driving toward Burger King and soon noticed a vehicle following him. Moments later a second vehicle began to follow him. White GPD officer Ciciarelli pulled Rosa over and began questioning him about his ALKQN membership. Three more officers arrived soon after. According to Rosa, Ciciarelli asked questions such as: “When are your brothers getting here?” “I know you called them, ya’ll are creating havoc.” “Where’s J?” “What were you doing today?” While Ciciarelli questioned Rosa, another officer searched Rosa’s vehicle without consent or probable cause. Incredibly, the Complaint Review Committee found the officers had committed no violation.” (Ex. D at 2-3) On April 28, 2009, Wesley Williams took a break from painting his bedroom and walked to a neighborhood corner store to buy a soda. As Williams stepped back onto his property, a
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GPD officer grabbed him, threw him onto the hood of an unmarked police vehicle and searched him without his consent, discovering a paint-covered box cutter that Williams had been using to remove old paint. The officer asked Williams for identification and Williams explained that his license was inside. The officer arrested Williams for delaying an investigation by not presenting identification when asked. At the bottom of the report filed by the Complaint Review Committee with the GPD, CRC employee Yamile Nazar Walker requests that the case “[be] added to the other numerous cases filed by members of the Almight Latin King and Queen Nation (ALKQN); for it to be investigated as previously discussed, both as to whether there is evidence of a pattern of practice and behavior by GPD officers as it relates to ALKQN as well as whether Mr. Williams’ rights were violated by the arrest.” (Ex. E) This complaint was not sustained. On May 11, 2009, white gang unit officer Kugel spotted ALKQN leader Jorge Cornell driving with his girlfriend along High Point Road in Greensboro. Kugel began to follow Cornell. Cornell saw that he was being followed and was careful not to exceed the speed limit. Officer Kugel followed Cornell’s vehicle to Freeman Mill Road, where he pulled him over. Moments later, white officer R.A. Watkins arrived in an unmarked GPD vehicle. Officer Kugel had accused Cornell of traveling 65 in a 55, but after conversing privately with Watkins, Kugel gave Cornell a ticket for traveling 70 in a 55. The Complaint Review Committee once again found the officers were not at fault. (Ex. F at 1) On May 12, 2009, Chief Bellamy contacted Reverend Johnson to inform him that the gang unit was searching for a sixteen-year old runaway named Coleman. Reverend Johnson explained that Coleman was not a runaway, and that Coleman’s mother had in fact sent the Reverend paperwork necessary to enroll her son in NC A&T College. Chief Bellamy indicated that he would pass this message along to the gang unit. The next day, ALKQN members Randolph Kilfoil, Jorge Cornell, Jose Lugo, and Wesley Williams were sitting on Williams’ front porch with Coleman when six gang unit officers in plain clothes ran at the house with guns drawn. The officers did not identify themselves and since Randolph Kilfoil did not know who they were, he ran inside. Gang unit officer Watkins jumped up and kicked the door down, and then arrested Kilfoil for weapon possession. On a prior occasion, GPD officers not belonging to the gang unit had visited Williams’ house with a missing person’s report and had behaved much differently. For example, the previous officers had walked up to the house without guns drawn and simply asked for the missing person. In this case the gang unit officers’ behavior represented an excessive use of force since Coleman, the so-called “missing person,” was sitting on Williams’ front porch when the officers arrived at the house. In the report of the incident sent from the Complaint Review Committee to the GPD, CRC employee Yamile Nazar Walker noted that “the CRC [had] received a previous complaint alleging Officer Watkins’ excessive use of force; lack of training on diffusing a potential hostile situation; and misleading an investigative officer with the facts of the incident previously alleged.” Despite Watkins’ record of prior use of excessive force, ALKQN’s complaint was not sustained. (Ex. F)
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On the evening of Saturday, August 1, 2009, ALKQN member Wesley Williams’ friend, Eric Ginsburg, arrived at an outdoor concert ahead of Mr. Williams. When Mr. Ginsburg saw Mr. Williams arrive, he waived at Mr. Williams to signal where he was. Mr. Williams waived back, and was immediately approached by white officer R.A. Watkins, who accused Mr. Williams of throwing gang signs. When Mr. Cornell approached Officer Watkins to ask him what was going on, Officer Watkins arrested Mr. Cornell. While processing Mr. Cornell at the jail, Officer Watkins tried to provoke Mr. Cornell, including asking Mr. Cornell if he wanted to fight. Officer Watkins later influenced the magistrate to give Cornell an excessively harsh curfew. When Mr. Cornell once again lodged a complaint with the Complaint Review Committee, but the CRC did not pursue disciplinary action against Officer Watkins. (Ex. G) On December 15, 2009, Officer Watkins visited the Greensboro Coliseum where Wesley Williams was working. Officer Watkins told Mr. Williams’ supervisor that Mr. Williams had been banned from city property, of which the Coliseum formed part. As a result of this untruth, Mr. Williams was immediately let go despite his supervisor’s opinion that Mr. Williams was an impressive worker. Several days later, gang unit officer R.A. Watkins and other GPD officers visited a Taco Bell where AKLQN member Luis Rosa was working. Watkins began questioning Rosa’s supervisor and informing the supervisor that Rosa belonged to ALKQN. Williams and the Taco Bell employee filed separate complaints with the Complaint Review Committee. Neither complaint was sustained. (Ex. H) On April 24, 2010, GPD officer Fisher pulled over ALKQN members Richard Robinson and Wesley Williams. Although Robinson attempted to tell Officer Fisher that he had two registered weapons on top of his back seat, Officer Fisher arrested both men for possession of concealed weapons. (Ex. I at 3) On May 6, 2010, approximately six GPD vehicles passed in front of Jorge Cornell’s house, at least three times. The vehicles would drive up the block, make a U turn and return. The last two passes were done with their lights flashing onto the porch where several members were seated. Jorge Cornell filed a complaint with the Complaint Review Committee. (Ex. I at 3) On May 7, 2010, Cornell and his neighbor were having separate barbeques when a GPD officer pulled up in front of Jorge Cornell’s house and questioned Wesley Williams. The officer alleged that the GPD had received a call about some sort of problem, and asked Williams if there was some sort of “beef.” When Williams informed the officer that there was nothing going on, the officer proceeded to drive to the end of the street, make a U turn and question Cornell’s neighbor. The officer informed the neighbor that Cornell was a member of ALKQN, and asked if the neighbor had had any trouble from Cornell. Mr. Cornell filed a complaint with the Complaint Review Committee. At the time Cornell filed his complaint with CRC administrator Yamile Nazar Walker, Ms. Walker indicated the CRC would be interviewing the Cornell’s neighbor. To date the CRC has not interviewed Cornell’s neighbor nor has it completed the investigation into this incident. (Ex. I at 3) On Sunday July 25, 2010, two GPD officers pulled over Venezuelan ALKQN member Jose Lugo without cause and told him “we know you have drugs.” Lugo did not object to the
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vehicle search because he wanted to show he had nothing to hide. After failing to find drugs inside the vehicle, the officers became frustrated, walked to the front of Lugo’s vehicle and tore off his bumper. They then gave Lugo a ticket for driving without an operator’s license and drove away. At eleven p.m. on Tuesday, August 3, 2010, ALKQN members Wesley Williams, Richard Robinson, Charles Moore and Vanessa Tharpe-Davis were walking to Greensboro’s central bus depot to catch a bus home. The bus, as usual, was scheduled to leave the station at midnight. Before reaching the bus depot, two Lankford security officers and one GPD officer approached the ALKQN members and asked them what they were doing, to which Williams responded that they were going to catch a bus. The officer replied by stating: “No you’re not, get out of here.” The officers made it very clear by their body language and tone of voice that there would be trouble if the group did not turn away from the bus depot. Williams, Robinson and Moore, and Tharpe-Davis were forced to take a cab home. On Friday, August 6, 2010, ALKQN members Charles Moore, Wesley Williams and Russel Kilfoil were returning home from Ham’s Restaurant when a GPD officer stopped the car and accused Kilfoil of driving 62 in a 45. After the officer asked for Kilfoil’s driver’s license and registration, he returned to his police car. Within five or ten minutes, between six and eight additional police vehicles arrived and the officers stepped out and surrounded Kilfoil’s vehicle. At this point Kilfoil, Moore and Williams began to ask the officers for their badge numbers but were told “that’s none of your business.” One of the officers justified ordering Kilfoil out of the vehicle by stating that Kilfoil was “known to carry weapons.” Kilfoil, who has never been convicted of any weapons-related charge, obeyed the officer and stepped out of his car. Kilfoil’s two passengers were also ordered out of the vehicle without probable cause. All three men were frisked for weapons, but white officer Chapman did not pat down any area above Charles Moore’s waist or below his thighs. Instead, Chapman squeezed Moore’s genitals three times hard, causing Moore to experience physical anguish and humiliation in front of his friends and the surrounding officers. Moore plans to report this sexual assault to Greensboro’s Complaint Review Committee. A complainant may prove that a recipient has engaged in a “pattern or practice” of discrimination against a certain class of persons by showing that the recipient’s discriminatory actions are not isolated or sporadic, bur rather represent a consistent pattern of behavior, or “standard operating procedure.” See International Bhd. of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324, 336 (1977). The GPD’s years long, unbroken habit of harassing ALKQN members is exactly the type of discriminatory “pattern or practice” against a protected class of persons that is prohibited by Title VI. Id. V. Legal Principles: Agencies Receiving Federal Funds are Prohibited from Discriminating On the Basis of Race or National Origin in the Delivery of Services
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The behavior of the Greensboro Police Department’s officers constitutes racial and national origin discrimination in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000d and Section 809(c) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. 3789d(c)(3). The Greensboro Police Department has a pattern and practice of harassing and discriminating against ALKQN members that has the effect of discriminating against Latinos, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 14141. The Greensboro Police Department violates Title VI when its officers intentionally discriminate against ALKQN members based on their Hispanic race and Latin American national origin. However, even if one interprets the gang unit’s policies toward ALKQN as facially neutral, the racially disproportionate and adverse impact those policies have on ALKQN members represents a Title VI violation. Additionally, the GPD is in violation of Title VI for failing to establish an adequate citizen complaint procedure. A. Intentional Discrimination
To prove intentional discrimination, one must show that the recipient’s awareness of the complainant’s race or national origin caused him to treat the complainant in a discriminatory manner. Elston v. Talladega County Bd. of Educ., 997 F.2d 1394, 1405 n.11, 1407 n.14 (11th Cir.), reh'g denied, 7 F.3d 242 (11th Cir. 1993). The Almighty Latin King and Queen Nation, also known as the Latin Kings, is widely known as a Latino gang having originated in Latin America. The fact that GPD officers are aware of ALKQN members’ countries of origin is proven by the fact that the officers regularly attempt to have members deported. Former gang unit officer Blake reported that while the police were investigating a shooting apparently motivated by revenge for an injury caused to ALKQN member Anthony Vasquez, Matt Allred, a white GPD detective, “…suggested charging Vasquez with attempted murder with the understanding that the charge would be dismissed, but also knowing that Vasquez could be threatened with deportation because of his residency status.” Jordan Green, We’re Going to Give Them the Indication We’re Harassing Them, Yes!Weekly, June 17, 2009, at 12. Blake also reported that his white boss and sergeant, Ronald Sizemore, “would frequently discuss the option of calling in US Immigration & Customs Enforcement to deal with the Latin Kings.” Id. Given Sizemore’s high rank and the smallness of the gang unit, it is highly likely that if both Sizemore and Allred use knowledge about ALKQN members’ countries of national origin to try to deport them, other gang unit officers are following the same practice. As Officer Blake put it: “Part of the reason my sergeant wants to focus on Latinos is he assumes he has the ability to deport them all.” Id. Discriminatory intent may be inferred by examining statements by decision makers. Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Hous. Redevelopment Corp., 429 U.S. 252 at 266-68 (1977); Elston, 997 F.2d at 1406. Former officer Blake’s complaints concerning white officers’ racism toward Latinos date back to 2006, when Blake reported that white sergeant Hafekaneyer had described Latinos as wet-backs and said that Latinos all looked like illegal aliens. Press Release, Officer A.J. Blake, Public Statement by Greensboro Police Officer A.J. Blake (June 2, 2009) (on
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file in the Beloved Community Center’s “News & View” archives). Blake later filed a complaint against white officer Ashley Brown for saying that since everyone from Honduras is a gang member, Honduran Blake must also be a gang member. Id. During a question and answer session with reporters following his June 2, 2009 press conference, Blake talked about the time he “brought it to Sergeant Sizemore’s attention that [the gang unit] needed to investigate two sets of Bloods that were shooting at each other to prevent loss of life, and his sergeant indicated he would rather focus on MS-13, a Salvadoran-based gang whose presence hasn’t been felt in Greensboro since December 2007. I complained to Eric Sigmon…Blake said…[and]…asked, ‘Why is it that the only group Sizemore wants to investigate is Latinos?’ [Sigmon’s] response was that Sizemore’s perception of a gang member is a Latino.” Jordan Green, We’re Going to Give Them the Indication We’re Harassing Them, Yes!Weekly, June 17, 2009. Discriminatory intent may also be inferred by examining the history of events leading up to the challenged action including the recipient’s past history of discrimination. Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Hous. Redevelopment Corp., 429 U.S. 252 at 266-68 (1977); Elston, 997 F.2d at 1406. Discriminatory intent can be inferred by the fact that GPD’s harassment of ALKQN pre-dates formation of the gang unit. The white“one-man gang task force,” Ernest Cupasin, initiated a pattern of harassment against ALKQN in 2005, which included showing up with unnecessarily large numbers of GPD squad cars to interrupt ALKQN soccer games and other peaceful gatherings. Creation of a gang unit simply allowed the Greensboro Police Department to formalize these already existent practices. The fact that the gang unit’s sole Latino officer—who was for a long period of time the only person of color assigned to the gang unit—was fired after going public about the GPD officers’ anti-Latino attitudes and harassment of ALKQN, also leads to an inference of discriminatory intent. Finally, discriminatory intent may be inferred by examining whether there was a departure from standard procedure. Id. The pattern of harassment against the ALKQN members does not correspond to the gang unit’s stated strategy of “top-down enforcement,” in which “emphasis [would be] placed on Jorge Cornell and his command structure.” (Ex. L at 1) The record of complaints filed with the Complaint Review Committee shows that gang unit officers have indiscriminately harassed all members of ALKQN, not just Cornell and the ALKQN leadership. The gang unit’s departure from its own stated policy of targeting leaders is indicative of the fact that this suppression strategy is merely a pretext for racial and national origin discrimination. If the evidence gives rise to an inference of discriminatory intent, the recipient must give a legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification for the challenged action. McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802 (1973). The complaint investigator must then determine whether there is evidence indicating the recipient’s justification was a pretext for discrimination. Id. The Greensboro Police Department has attempted to justify its choice to target ALKQN by stating that ALKQN is a notoriously dangerous criminal organization, but without providing any proof or even anecdotal evidence that ALKQN is in fact more dangerous than Greensboro’s many other gangs. (Ex. L) However, this complaint does not allege that the GPD violated Title
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VI by using its discretion to focus additional resources on ALKQN. Rather, the GPD actions which are in violation of Title VI include the unlawful traffic stops, searches, and arrests of ALKQN members, in addition to the countless meritless charges filed as a way of tying up members’ resources in legal fees. The GPD also violates Title VI when its officers visit ALKQN members’ places of work and places of residence in an attempt to have members fired and displaced from their homes. The GPD has not put forward any justification for these actions, despite years of community outcry. In fact, the GPD refuses to acknowledge its officers’ participation in this pattern of harassment. This silence confirms the truth that there can be no possible “legitimate, nondiscriminatory justification” for such a continuous pattern of unlawful, discriminatory harassment. B. Disparate Impact The Supreme Court has held that a Title VI violation exists where a protected group suffers a disparate impact, despite the recipient’s lack of discriminatory intent. Guardians, 463 U.S. at 582, Alexander v. Choate, 469 U.S. at 293. Likewise, the Department of Justice, which funds the Greensboro Police Department through the Office of Justice Program grants, has enacted regulations which state that a recipient of Department funds may not administer a program in such a way that the effect is to subject individuals to racial or national origin discrimination. 28 C.F.R. § 42.104(b)(2). Many of the practices the gang unit employs in its campaign against ALKQN, such as unlawful traffic stops and searches, and unjustified visits to places of employment, are undoubtedly not facially neutral. The gang unit would argue, however, that its overall strategy of targeting ALKQN’s leadership is neutral on its face since the strategy aims to prevent ALKQN from recruiting new members and thereby minimize the criminal threat that ALKQN poses to the greater community. Captain Wolfe, in effect, attempted to make this argument in the letter he wrote to former Chief Bellamy in February of this year. (Ex. L) In this letter, Captain Wolfe refers in very broad terms to the dangerousness of ALKQN, without bothering to compare this to the degree of danger posed by other Greensboro street organizations. However, supposing for the sake of argument that the GPD’s policy of targeting ALKQN is facially neutral, there is still a Title VI violation since the effect on ALKQN members, most of whom are Latino, is adverse. Judging from the testimony of former Officer Blake, testimony by various local clergy members, Greensboro newspaper headings and Complaint Review Committee reports from the past several years, there is no indication that non-Latino gang members have been adversely affected at all by the gang unit’s gang suppression policy, let alone affected adversely in the same proportion as ALKQN members. There is also statistical data proving that ALKQN has been disproportionately and adversely impacted by the gang unit’s harassment. An analysis of the statistics available from the North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts indicates that the conviction rate for all felony charges filed in Guilford County (of which Greensboro is a part) is 65.4 percent. In
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comparison, from late 2005 through early 2010, Greensboro ALKQN members were convicted of less than eleven percent of all felony charges. Jordan Green, Charges of Corruption Put GPD Under Scrutiny, Yes!Weekly, May 26, 2010, at 15. This outrageously low conviction rate exists despite the fact that the District Attorney’s office advised the gang unit that all charges involving gang members would be flagged so as not to be dropped. (Ex. L, attachment 2). If investigation reveals that a recipient’s facially neutral procedure or practice has disproportionately and adversely impacted a protected group, the recipient may then respond by providing a "substantial legitimate justification" for the challenged practice. Georgia State Conference of Branches of NAACP v. Georgia, 775 F.2d 1403, 1417 (11th Cir. 1985). The challenged practice or policy must have been "necessary to meeting a goal that was legitimate, important, and integral to the [recipient's] institutional mission" in order to be considered a “substantial legitimate justification” for the disparate impact. Sandoval v. Hagan, 7 F.Supp. 2d 1234, 1278 (M.D. Ala. 1998), aff'd, 197 F.3d 484 (11th Cir. 1999), cert. granted sub. nom. Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U.S. 275 (2001) (quoting Elston, 997 F.2d at 1413). In his letter to former Chief Bellamy, Captain Wolfe explains that the gang unit targeted ALKQN in furtherance of the gang unit’s crime reduction goal. (Ex. L) However, there is in fact no correlation between the degree of danger posed by ALKQN and the extent to which the gang unit harasses them. For example, in 2009 the gang unit focused less than five percent of its investigative efforts on ALKQN, presumably an indication that the gang unit saw a better chance of meeting its crime reduction goal by focusing on more threatening gangs. (Id.) However, in this same year gang unit officers committed some of the most outrageous violations of ALKQN members’ civil rights. This shows that the suppression policy directed at ALKQN was not in fact a “substantial legitimate justification,” since it was not integral to the gang unit’s mission of reducing crime. Even if the recipient proves that its challenged practice was necessary to meet a legitimate agency goal, the recipient is still in violation of Title VI if the same goal could have been achieved through an alternative practice resulting in less racial disparity. Elston, 997 F.2d at 1413. As former gang-unit Officer A.J. Blake has stated, if the Greensboro Police Department’s legitimate agency goal is to reduce crime by removing dangerous criminal gang members from the city streets, then “…it doesn’t make sense to have them looking over their shoulders all the time because we’re arresting them for things like throwing a cigarette on the ground. We’re going to give them the indication we’re harassing them.” Jordan Green, We’re Going to Give Them the Indication We’re Harassing Them, Yes!Weekly, June 17, 2009. A more effective alternative practice would be to divide the gang unit officers’ time and resources among gangs according to the actual danger posed by respective gangs, which could be measured by feedback from community members as well as by looking at past years’ conviction rates. A recipient of federal funds is also in violation of Title VI if the ostensibly legitimate practice is actually a pretext for discrimination. Elston, 997 F.2d at 1413. The fact that all members of ALKQN have been targeted, as opposed to just the ALKQN leadership, shows that
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the GU’s “top-down” suppression strategy is merely a pretext for discrimination based on race and national origin. The outrageously low felony conviction rate among ALKQN members, lack of correlation between the danger posed by the gang and the GPD’s harassment, and fact that the gang unit has targeted all ALKQN members—not just the leaders—point to the fact that the gang unit’s “top-down enforcement” strategy (“suppression”) has become a pretext for discriminating against ALKQN members on the basis of race and national origin. C. Inadequate Citizen Complaint Procedure The Office of Civil Rights has found that a recipient agency violates Title VI by failing to maintain an adequate complaint procedure. U.S. v. City of Columbus, Ohio, 99 CV 1097 S.D. Ohio, 2000. The OCR brought an action under 42 U.S.C. § 14141 against the City of Columbus for failing to adequately and fairly adjudicate or review citizen complaints, adequately discipline officers engaging in misconduct, and adequately investigate incidents involving officers’ use of force Id. If a Greensboro citizen complains to the police department about mistreatment by an officer but is unsatisfied with the department’s “determination,” the citizen may then file an appeal with the Human Relations Commission’s Complaint Review Committee (CRC). In the first part of the appeals process, the citizen sits down with a CRC employee to give an accounting of what occurred during the citizen-officer interaction. The CRC employee then drafts a report which is sent to the police department. (Exs. C-I) Depending on the nature of the complaint, the CRC may include with the report a request for video or audio footage, or other very specific information concerning the incident in question. Upon receipt of the report, the GPD’s Professional Standards Division conducts an internal investigation into the incident and then sends its response, in the form of an administrative report, to the CRC. In a presentation given to city council on June 16, 2009 concerning suggested ways to improve the CRC, Greensboro CRC employee Wayne Abraham reported that “quite frequently we have to ask for additional information beyond what’s given to us in the administrative reports.” City of Greensboro’s video of 06/16/09 City Council Meeting, http://greensboro.gran icus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=2. Given the GPD’s lack of cooperation and the increase in the volume and complexity of complaints to the CRC, Abrahams suggested giving the CRC increased powers, including: the ability to subpoena witnesses; the ability to access all audio and video sources of information; access to police officers’ personnel files so as to determine whether there is a pattern of complaints against certain officers; and the power to initiate investigations into events brought to the CRC’s attention by media outlets and community members. Abraham also expressed the need for the CRC to be informed of what specific disciplinary actions are being taken against an officer after it has been determined that an officer violated a law or policy, so that the CRC can pass this information along to the complainant. Finally, Abraham requested that the GPD send letters to complainants upon completion of an
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investigation so that the “complainant knows his voice has been heard and that the GPD properly resolved the complaint.” In conclusion, Abraham stated that “these are all barriers to resolving complaints. Increasing the CRC’s access will meet the community’s current demands.” Id. Following Abraham’s presentation, Councilmember Rakestraw asked Abraham rhetorically how he expected the CRC to get information from the GPD when even the city council had trouble doing so. Rakestraw cited as a for instance the common situation wherein the GPD responded to probing city council questions by categorizing the sought-after information as a private “personnel issue,” whereas before it had not been a personnel issue. Many ALKQN members do not have the luxury of becoming frustrated with the CRC’s powerlessness, because they are denied access to the city’s complaint procedure from the outset. As noted above, it is often the case that in the midst of the most egregious incidents of abuse and harassment by Greensboro police officers, the offending officers hide their badges or refuse to give their badge number or name. Also as described above, there was a period of time in which ALKQN members were denied access to the municipal building in which the CRC office is located. Given the gang unit’s ongoing attempt to isolate ALKQN members from the greater community, it is not unforeseeable that the unit might spread misinformation leading city employees to once again deny members access to city property. Once a member of ALKQN does manage to access the city’s complaint procedure, the CRC becomes the intermediary between the complaining citizen and the police department. As a relatively neutral party, the CRC is in a good position to note when there appears to be a pattern of misconduct by certain officers, or a pattern of harassment against certain individuals. Following Wesley Williams’ arrest on April 28, 2009, the CRC asked the GPD to examine whether “there is evidence of a pattern of practice and behavior by GPD officers as it relates to ALKQN as well as whether Mr. Williams’ rights were violated by the arrest.” (Ex. E) Unfortunately, as Wayne Abraham’s report to city council indicates, after the CRC submits its report to the police department, the CRC has no power to insure that the GPD undertakes a thorough investigation into the complained of incident. Not surprisingly, the GPD most often finds that its officers have committed no violation. This is reflected in the fact that, between 2005 and 2010, only four of fifty-seven complaints submitted to the CRC were sustained. The GPD leadership has responded with deliberate indifference to the growing community outrage over its treatment of ALKQN members. The department heads refuse to respond to allegations of very specific incidents of harassment by individual officers. Captain’s Wolfe extremely vague response to former gang-unit Officer Blake’s claim that the gang unit discriminates against Latinos gives the clear impression that the GPD has no plans to enact voluntary changes from within. Wolfe’s one-sentence response reads: “Amid allegations of racial profiling by a former GU member, the department’s Inspection Section conducted interviews and audits of the Unit’s personnel and operations and found no evidence to support the allegation or any improprieties related to the Unit’s operational strategies.” (Ex. L) In the
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same letter, Wolfe attempts to vindicate the gang unit further by praising the fact that, of the complaints filed against gang unit members, “none have been sustained.” (Id.) The indifference toward the GPD’s racist practices extends beyond the police department itself. During an interview, former city manager Mitchell Johnson stated: “If there is a situation where the gang unit is overstepping their responsibilities, then I’m sure the police chief will review it. I’ve talked to the chief quite a bit about what was his assessment of the concerns about the gang unit and he seemed to be very comfortable with it, and I was comfortable with his explanation.” Jordan Green, Jorge Cornell Called for Gang Peace…So Why Does He Look Like a Marked Man?, Yes!Weekly, Nov. 19, 2008. The GPD violates Title VI by failing to establish a process by which citizen complaints are resolved in a just manner. This violation disproportionately and adversely impacts those Latinos who have committed no crime by choosing to take up membership in ALKQN. VI. Remedies Sought
First, Complainants seek a change in the policies and practices of the Greensboro Police Department that are causing the discrimination against them. The GPD must either dismantle the gang unit or radically retrain the gang unit. Part of a radical retraining would include abandonment of the “suppression” policy, which has resulted in provocation, stretching of legal limits and putting into place a two tier law enforcement system, one for “first” class citizens and another for “second” class citizens, or “gang members.” ALKQN members insist that, in the event the gang unit is not dismantled, it at least be restructured in such a way so as to be made up solely of gang expert officers hired from outside the Greensboro Police Department. Second, there needs to be stronger ongoing oversight. While serving as Chief of Police, Tim Bellamy addressed city council and recommended there be greater citizen oversight of the police department. “It’s going to build more trust in the community, and more trust within the department.” Jordan Green, Charges of Corruption Put GPD Under Scrutiny, Yes!Weekly, May 26, 2010, at 15. Specifically, the city of Greensboro should grant the CRC the increased powers that it requested at the city council meeting last year, including the power to subpoena witnesses, to access all audio and video sources of information, to access to police officers’ personnel files and to initiate investigations even when a formal complaint has not been filed. See: City of Greensboro’s video of 06/16/09 City Council Meeting, available at http://greensboro.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?vi ew_id=2. Third, given the extremely low felony conviction rate amongst ALKQN members, the GPD should hold quarterly meetings with the Guilford County’s District Attorney’s Office to obtain information about, and discuss, instances in which judges and district attorneys have dismissed charges for lack of prosecutorial merit. The GPD should then use this information to improve its policies, practices and training. The following additional measures should also be taken to insure that the Greensboro Police Department changes its discriminatory practices and policies: 1) The GPD should
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implement a written policy against discrimination in policing, subject to the approval of the Department of Justice; 2) The GPD should install mobile video/audio (“MVR”) equipment in all of its patrol vehicles. All traffic stops conducted by GPD vehicles with MVR equipment should be recorded using both the video and audio functions; 3) The GPD should implement a procedure for documenting all traffic stops, to include the race/ethnicity of the driver, whether consent to search the vehicle was requested, whether a nonconsensual search of the vehicle was conducted, etc. This information should be kept in a centralized database and analyzed regularly. Traffic stop analyses should be conducted for each subgroup of officers, including the gang unit; 4) The GPD should require officers to provide their names and an explanation of the reason for the traffic stop at the beginning of each traffic stop and; 5) The GPD should develop informational materials in English and in Spanish describing the complaint process. Both complaint forms and informational materials should be made avaialbe at the police station, city hall, other public locations, and community organizations. The number one priority for Jorge Cornell and the other ALKQN members is to find a way to train Greensboro police officers, and in particular the gang unit members, in such a way that the officers respect ALKQN members as they would any other community members. ALKQN members believe sensitivity training would be helpful in teaching white officers how to interact with communities of color. Conclusion As Jorge Cornell stated at a press conference in 2009: “The gang unit has…attacked us personally. The members of our nation have been wrongly jailed; our names have been drug through mud. We have had to pay money for bail and for lawyers. We have been fired from our jobs. We are finding it hard to find a place to live. All of this is happening because of the gang squad and it is wrong.” Building Peace, Unity and Justice in Greensboro, SCSJ blog from 7/13/09; http://southerncoaltion.org/node/129. For all of the above stated reasons, we ask that the Department of Justice open an investigation into the discrimination against ALKQN as soon as possible. The Complainants, Jorge Cornell and the other ALKQN members, are prepared to assist the Department in any way in the investigation. DATE: October 30, 2010 Respectfully submitted, ______________________ Anita S. Earls Southern Coalition for Social Justice 115 Market Street, Ste. 470 Durham, N.C. 27701 919-323-3380 ext. 115 Attorney for Complainants
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