LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department will clarify its policies on racial profiling as part of the resolution of a legal claim filed in part by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, it was announced Monday.
The claim alleged that 14 sheriff's deputies looking for drug dealers at Los Angeles Trade-Tech on Oct. 17, 2007, stopped and searched 33 black students and one Latino student, according to the ACLU.
"Deputies harassed and humiliated these students, treating them like criminals in front of the faculty, administrators and fellow students," the ACLU stated in the claim.
Sheriff's spokesman Steve Whitmore flatly denied the allegations of racial profiling, though he did say the operation was "not the most effective policing."
A report from the county's Office of Independent Review that will be presented to the Board of Supervisors later this week clears the deputies of racial profiling, but is critical of the operation's planning, Mike Gennaco said, the head attorney in the Office of Independent Review.
While conducting surveillance on the detained individuals weeks before the actual operation, deputies saw what they believed to be the purchase of narcotics, Gennaco said.
"Now that doesn't mean we liked everything the department did," he said, referring to the report that will clear the deputies.
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Gennaco criticized the use of a "saturation patrol" -- flooding the area with deputies to create a visible presence -- as opposed to a series of smaller, targeted operations.
Of the detained students, only two were arrested, he said. One student had a warrant alleging an unspecified crime, and another was arrested for drug possession.
Also, communication with the school's staff, whose complaint actually prompted the operation, could have been better, he said.
Despite the report's findings, the department's policy will be revised to explicitly state that racial profiling is not to be used, Whitmore said.
In addition, any future operations on the Trade-Tech's campus will be planned with the assistance of the college's president, who will also monitor those operations, Whitmore said.
"Every voice deserves to be heard at the table of public safety," Whitmore said.
Local ACLU officials touted the settlement as a victory.
"This agreement brings the department into the 21st century and provides the community with important protections against racial profiling," said Catherine Lhamon, racial justice director at the ACLU of Southern California.
Assistant County Counsel Roger Granbo, who is overseeing the claim for the Sheriff's Department, said that although the resolution was in the works, he had no comment until everything was finalized.