LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted in a closed session Tuesday to pay an undisclosed amount to settle charges of discriminatory enforcement practices against Antelope Valley residents living in subsidized housing.
The details of the agreement involving the county, the Housing Authority and the U.S. Justice Department were not released but include both a monetary payment and “remedial measures.”
The board’s vote was 4-0 on the payment and 3-1 on the additional measures, with Supervisor Don Knabe absent and Supervisor Mike Antonovich casting the dissenting vote, according to a report supplied by the CEO’s office.
The settlement also includes the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, “if it chooses to participate,” according to the report.
In April, the board agreed to pay $725,000 in victims’ compensation and civil penalties in the first phase of the settlement with the Justice Department over allegations that sheriff’s officials systematically targeted racial minorities in the Antelope Valley.
Under that legal agreement, the Sheriff’s Department did not admit or agree with the Justice Department’s findings, but agreed to provide “bias-free policing.”
The Sheriff’s Department also agreed to train its deputies on stops, searches and detention to end arbitrary searches and only allow stops warranted by “reasonable suspicion” rather than based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation or perceived immigration status.
That settlement also required the Sheriff’s Department to ensure that investigations by housing authorities were not being used to harass residents or push them to relocate.
Federal officials accused the county, Lancaster and Palmdale in 2013, after a two-year investigation, of waging a campaign of discrimination against black residents, particularly those living in low-income subsidized housing.
Federal officials said some sheriff’s personnel in the Antelope Valley had engaged in a “pattern or practice of stops, searches and seizures and excessive force in violation of the Constitution and federal law.”
Investigators also found discrimination against African-Americans in violation of the Fair Housing Act.
That discrimination often took the form of teams of armed sheriff’s deputies accompanying county housing agency investigators on surprise inspections of Section 8 housing, looking for violations of housing rules.
Tenants told stories of being intimidated by as many as 10 armed deputies and Public Counsel said the crackdown created a climate of fear and hostility.
Some officials at the time argued the compliance checks were needed to root out abuses in the program.
In 2012, to settle a suit brought by the NAACP and other civil rights organizations charging discrimination against residents of federally subsidized housing, the Sheriff’s Department put a moratorium on “enhanced investigation agreements” with Palmdale and Lancaster and vowed to retrain deputies on the rights of Section 8 tenants.
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