North Carolina’s Winston-Salem Police Department wants permission to use asset forfeiture funds, obtained via the federal equitable sharing program, to engage in an air patrol of the city in partnership with Alamance, Davidson, Guilford, and Randolph counties. The U.S. Department of Justice recently suspended the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office’s access to equitable sharing program payments amid allegations the sheriff’s office engaged in a pattern of discriminatory policing–including a pattern or practice of unlawful and unreasonable seizures targeting Latinos.
The Winston-Salem Police Department itself is no stranger to such allegations. Earlier this year, the department adopted new policies executing checkpoints after an American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina Legal Foundation (ACLU-NCLF) investigation “found that approximately 85 percent of the 244 checkpoints placed throughout the city during an 11-month period were placed in minority neighborhoods.” The investigation was triggered by complaints of discriminatory policing:
“Our investigation really started with business owners and citizens complaining about [driver’s license] checkpoints, and then we started hearing similar complaints from people in different parts of the city,” [said Raul Pinto, Racial Justice Attorney for the ACLU-NCLF].
Complainants expressed concerns to the ACLU that the police department was targeting Latino residents and focusing its efforts almost exclusively in minority neighborhoods in the city.
“We heard that the checkpoints were being conducted consistently in the same intersection — we heard that most often, and we heard that police were waving Caucasian drivers through the checkpoints, and stopping Hispanic drivers,” Pinto said. (Keith Barber, ACLU Continues Investigation of WSPD License Checkpoints, Yes Weekly, 23 Nov. 2011.)