PALMDALE – Nearly 20 residents grabbed the microphone at the Section 8 Community Forum Thursday night to give first-hand accounts of what they called abuse and harassment by Palmdale and Lancaster deputies.
“As we came into this area with our vouchers, we have been harassed,” said Toni Clark.
Clark said during a traffic stop for a broken taillight three years ago, deputies searched her purse and found a very small amount of marijuana. She said they immediately put her in the squad car and contacted compliance officers to ask if Clark was on Section 8. She said her voucher was revoked shortly after, and since the incident, she’s been continually harassed by law enforcement. She said one time they even put her in a choke hold.
Jerome Reynolds said deputies stormed his wife’s home on a bogus tip.
“Four months ago, they came to our house at 7 o’clock in the morning along with an inspector from housing, and said they were notified that marijuana was getting sold out the house,” said Reynolds. “The Sheriffs came eight cars deep and emptied everybody out the house…. The Sheriffs didn’t ever find no drug paraphernalia and later apologized and said it was something bogus…”
Some audience members wept as LaTiss Pugh told of how her infraction turned into 107 days of incarceration. She said it happened when an officer followed her home and into her driveway and then attempted to conduct a search before issuing the infraction.
“He tried to frisk me or whatever you want to call it, and I put up a defense against it because we were in the driveway … it’s not enough room for two kids to stand there, let alone two adults. He grabbed my arm and we were basically moving around in that little area… So I went to jail for resisting and delaying a police officer from doing his duty. If I was stopped for an infraction, I was supposed to be given a ticket and I should have went in my house and went to bed, because I was already in my driveway… I’m real angry and hurt and disappointed… When I hear people saying they didn’t do anything wrong, I believe them. From the depths of my heart I believe they didn’t do anything wrong…”
Public Counsel Attorney Catherine Lhamon recorded the names of all the residents who gave comments at Thursday’s forum and even recorded the names of those who were afraid to speak but still felt that they were mistreated. She said she would be contacting them all next week to get a permanent record of their stories and to determine if their stories could help the lawsuit. She is also turning over all the names to the Justice Department to assist with its pattern of practice investigation.