The U.S. Justice Department must decide today whether to appeal a federal judge’s ruling dismissing a DOJ lawsuit charging Sheriff Terry Johnson of Alamance County, N.C., of racial profiling, the Marshall Project reports. Latino residents and civil rights advocates had complained that Johnson told his staff of 123 officers to target Latino drivers in traffic stops. Johnson denied the charge. In August, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder threw the case out, saying the government lacked compelling evidence. “They simply didn't prove their case,” said the Alamance County Attorney, Clyde Albright.
Schroeder questioned the methods used by two government experts on racial profiling. In one study, analysts spent 135 hours watching drivers on three county roads, and found that Latino drivers were rarely seen violating state traffic law. The judge said researchers did not stop motorists to determine their ethnicity, instead guessing on drivers' racial makeup based on appearance. The judge said an analysis by University of Pennsylvania criminologist John MacDonald, who said Latino drivers were more likely to be given a citation or get arrested during a traffic stop than were non-Latinos, failed to take into account the reasons why a citation was given or why an arrest was made. Schroeder took issue with a 21-year-old federal statute that allows the U.S. Attorney General to use the threat of lawsuits to pressure local law enforcement agencies to improve their performance.