Nearly 70% of L.A. Sheriff’s Drug Stops Involved Latinos

Deputies have seized a ton of methamphetamine and two tons of marijuana in highways stops, but a vast majority of the drivers have been Latino. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department denies racial profiling.

A team of Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies cruises the 5 Freeway, stopping motorists in search of cars carrying drugs. They’ve worked since 2012 and boast a large haul: more than a ton of methamphetamine, two tons of marijuana, 600 pounds of cocaine, millions of dollars in suspected drug money and more than 1,000 arrests. Behind those impressive numbers are some troubling ones, reports the Los Angeles Times. More than two-thirds of the drivers pulled over by the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team were Latino, found a Times analysis of Sheriff’s Department data. Deputies searched the vehicles of more than 3,500 drivers who turned out to have no drugs or other illegal items. The overwhelming majority of those were Latino.

Several of the team’s big drug busts have been dismissed as the credibility of some deputies came under fire and federal judges ruled that deputies violated the rights of motorists by conducting unconstitutional searches. The Times analyzed data from every traffic stop recorded by the team from 2012 through the end of last year — more than 9,000 stops in all — and reviewed records from hundreds of court cases. Among its findings: Latino drivers accounted for 69 percent of the deputies’ stops. Officers from the California Highway Patrol, mainly policing traffic violations on the same section of freeway, pulled over nearly 378,000 motorists during the same period; 40 percent of them were Latino. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department said that racial profiling “plays no role” in the deputies’ work and that they base their stops only on a person’s driving and other impartial factors. Kimberly Fuentes of the California League of United Latin American Citizens described the Times’ findings as “extremely disturbing and troubling” and said the advocacy organization would demand a meeting with Sheriff’s Department officials.