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Antelope Valley discrimination: Justice Dept. orders $12.5 million fund for victims

July 2, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
The U.S. Justice Department has ordered Los Angeles County and the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster to pay $12.5 million to alleged victims of racial discrimination by sheriff's deputies and local authorities.

"First of all, it dealt with the over-arrest of African-Americans and Latinos here; the illegal checkpoints that produced immigration stops; as well as the huge issue that we had here with Section 8 homeowners being displaced because of improper investigations," said Darren Parker, a Human Relations Commission spokesman.

The Justice Department found that Antelope Valley officials discriminated against African-Americans in Section 8 low-income housing and that the sheriff's department unlawfully searched the homes of low-income residents, and in some cases forced them to move out.

The Justice Dept. has demanded that Los Angeles County, the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster and the L.A. County Sheriff's Department collectively pay $12.5 million into a victim restitution fund.

"I believe that it needs to be paid, and those individuals that were displaced, that were kicked out of their homes, that are not home to do this day because of actions that happened under their leadership, it needs to be a collective action of support and change," said Parker.

"Lancaster is not going to pay one cent of it because I honestly don't think Lancaster did anything wrong," said Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris. "I don't think the sheriff's department did anything wrong. Do I think the county council of Los Angeles is going to tell them to pay? Yeah, county council's a slot machine -- every lawyer knows that."

"We do in fact stand resolute that we have not discriminated against anybody in the public. This is a negotiation. Also, please remember: Nobody has been ordered to pay anything. It is a preliminary overture," said L.A. County Sheriff's Spokesman Steve Whitmore.

Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford issued a statement: "The City of Palmdale is concerned about the seriousness of these allegations. Although we understand that the Sheriff strongly disagrees with these findings, we also want to clearly state that we would never condone the Sheriff's Department violating the civil rights of any resident."


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