By Waunette Cullors
It doesn’t take a federal monitor to tell us that policing in the Antelope Valley (AV) is unconstitutional, racist, and often deadly for Black and Brown residents. But the 10th semi-annual report from the federal Monitoring Team on progress with the 2015 Settlement Agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice and the LA County Sheriff over racist policing by the Lancaster and Palmdale Sheriff Stations should be alarming to all LA County residents, and any who believe in fairness and justice.
Both of our AV cities are made up of majority people of color. From 1990 to 2010, the Black population in Lancaster grew from 7% to 21%, and in Palmdale Latinos make up the majority, comprising 55% of the population.
Five years into the federal Settlement Agreement, the Monitoring Team’s open letter to the presiding Judge states, a “disturbing lack of progress on key areas including use of force, complaints, crime prevention strategies, and community engagement practices as well as our concerns about a lack of accountability and follow-through at the highest levels of LASD administration.”
This resounding condemnation of the Sheriff’s Department is backed up by 73 pages of metrics detailing how LASD and the County continue to subjugate Black and Brown Antelope Valley residents to humiliation, harassment, and state violence.
Among the many yardsticks of bad policing and misconduct measured in the report, the Sheriffs use discretionary stops and searches as the primary tool for oppression and discrimination. Combined, the two AV stations conducted 39,232 discretionary stops in 2019 (vehicle, bicycle, or pedestrian), averaging over 100 unwarranted stops a day, 365 days a year.
While comprising roughly 17% of the combined AV population, Black people make up 32% of all stops, and yet are less likely to have contraband or to be on probation or parole. The Report goes on to detail how the Sheriff is out of compliance on 18 of 23 Settlement Agreement requirements related to stops, including conducting stops and detentions without reasonable suspicion.
The progress on Use of Force by the Sheriffs is equally disturbing. In fact, Use of Force has INCREASED since the Settlement Agreement took effect, up 53% in Lancaster and a 57% increase in Palmdale, comparing 2016-2017 with 2018-2019. Here, LASD is out of compliance on 13 of the 19 Settlement Agreement requirements related to Use of Force, including not having an updated Use of Force Protocol document for the DOJ to review and approve — after 5 years.
Again, none of this comes as a surprise to those living in these occupied communities.
I moved to the Antelope Valley over two decades ago. As is the case in many communities throughout the US, far too often, Black youth are stopped without reason in the Antelope Valley community. We shouldn’t have to live in a world where our children of all ages are stopped, chastised, humiliated, and searched.
I have seen deputies targeting undocumented women with their children and stopping them for infractions such as lack of car seats. They take this opportunity to impound their cars and take their children away.
This parade of community harassment doesn’t come cheap either. The City of Palmdale spends over $28 million for these Sheriff “services,” 35% of the City’s General Fund. While the city of Lancaster spends over $27 million, 39% of Lancaster’s General Fund. As a taxpayer in this community, and as a Black woman directly experiencing these daily inequities, it is time to ask WHY.
Why do our local elected mayors and city council members continue to approve these kinds of expenditures to bring in outsiders to inflict daily harm on the very people who they represent? Why do the County Supervisors, who purport to be on the side of justice and “care first” continue to defend the noncompliance with basic constitutional policing by LASD?
Yes, it sounds crazy, but it is true, as taxpayers we are funding LA County Counsel attorneys to defend the Sheriff against complying with the federal Monitoring Team.
Where is the outrage?
Where is the LA local coverage of this failing report card issued to LA County and Sheriff Villanueva?
Even during this time of national racial reckoning; after a summer where we found our local young men hanging from trees in the midst of uprising protests against police brutality under an administration that openly supported white supremacy; and after a year where the disparity of COVID laid open for all the racial injustices Black and Brown people face in this country and in this county.
Even in these times, no one has deemed these Sheriff transgressions, meticulously counted, reported and printed in black and white, important enough to comment on.
The people will not be silent.
It’s time for our city leaders to cancel the Sheriff’s contract. Both of them.