LANCASTER – If you feel like you were mistreated by local law enforcement or harassed because you are a Section 8 recipient, then the U.S. Department of Justice would like to hear from you.
DOJ representatives will be in town next week to take complaints from residents as part of the federal investigation into alleged discriminatory policing by law enforcement in the Antelope Valley.
Thursday, representatives from The Community Action League (TCAL) joined various community organizations at the Antelope Valley Courthouse to announce the DOJ’s visit.
“The Justice Department is coming out to interview people and to hear the community’s side of the story,” said TCAL Board Member Nigel Holly.
“This is your opportunity to speak up on those issues that you called us over and over about,” said TCAL Board Member Emmett Murrell.
The meeting will take place at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday at 1030 West Avenue L-8 in Lancaster. TCAL representatives say Justice Department lawyer, Charles Hart, and others from the DOJ will take testimony from individuals in the community who feel like they have been victimized by law enforcement.
On Aug. 19, the Justice Department announced it had opened a civil investigation into allegations of discriminatory policing by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies based in Lancaster and Palmdale. According to the announcement, the Justice Department is investigating:
- Whether deputies have conducted warrantless searches of African-American families’ homes under the auspices of housing authority compliance inspections;
- Allegations that housing authority investigators based in the Lancaster and Palmdale sheriff’s stations have been accompanied by sheriff’s deputies as they conduct routine housing contract compliance checks;
- Allegations that deputies have approached Section 8 recipients’ homes with guns drawn and in full SWAT armor and conducted searches and questioning themselves, unrelated to the housing program;
- Allegations that the sheriff’s department has sought to identify, during routine traffic stops, individuals who use Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers.
At Thursday’s press conference, community leaders from Littlerock said they’d become involved in the DOJ’s investigation because minority residents of Littlerock were also harassed by law enforcement.
“A lot of complaints are coming in to the (town) council about things that are going on,” said Littlerock Council Member Carl Iannalfo.
Iannalfo said in one particular instance, a 19-year-old black man had been harassed by deputies as he was crossing the street.
“He was on foot crossing the intersection and they pulled him over and hassled him… apparently they shoved him and he shoved back and then they arrested him,” Iannalfo said. “He was about to go into the Marine Corps and they said ‘we don’t want you now because you have this criminal situation.’”
Iannalfo said local lawyer, Steve Fox, had assisted in getting the man’s record expunged so he could get into the Marine Corps. The situation prompted Iannalfo to get involved in the DOJ’s investigation.
“This just isn’t right what they are doing out here,” said Iannalfo. “It’s time we focus the spotlight on them and stop the bad behavior.”
Iannalfo said he would do his part to see that residents of Littlerock attended the meeting to have their complaints documented, as well.
“We’re coming together as a joint community, a community of all cultures, fighting for the best of AV,” said TCAL Board Member Pharoah Mitchell.
The DOJ will meet with residents at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 13, at 1030 West Avenue L-8 in Lancaster. For more information on this meeting, contact The Community Action League at 661-382-TCAL.