The Los Angeles County of Board of Supervisors is investigating whether a narcotics-search operation at Los Angeles Trade Technical College was a result of racial profiling.
On Oct. 17, 2007, 32 African Americans and one Latino student on campus were detained by Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies. Students from other racial backgrounds were not detained.
Reports from school administrators that marijuana was being sold on campus prompted the Sheriff’s Department’s raid.
“This is not rocket science. It is a clear-cut case of racial profiling,” says Catherine Lhamon, an attorney and racial justice director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California. “Thirty African American males and two (Black) women were detained. These were the only students detained aside from one Latino student filming the entire incident.”
According to student reports, nearly a dozen armed deputies encamped students in a recreational area on Trade Tech’s campus and ordered them to drop their things and sit down. Students were required to give their deputies identification information.
Steve Whitmore, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, says,
“[These individuals] were only momentarily detained. They were on the school’s campus, but they were not students. One person was arrested on an unrelated charge.”
According to Lhamon, the detainees were, in fact, students. The argument that they were not, she says, “is preposterous. Many students were held 45 minutes to an hour. They were forced to miss class. Faculty members were forced to intervene.”
The Trade Tech student body is 53 percent Latino, 31 percent Black, eight percent Asian and six percent White, according to community college data.
An investigation conducted by the college district, which oversees the trade school, concluded last week that the student roundup constituted racial profiling.
“I am disturbed that this much time has passed and the Sheriff’s department has yet to admit to wrong doing. We should not be waiting this long for justice. These students were humiliated,” says Lhamon.
–Michelle J. Nealy
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