Black Woman, County Settle New Mexico Profiling Lawsuit for $100K

February 21, 2020

New Mexico’s largest county has reached a racial profiling settlement with a black woman who was stopped by deputies three times in less than a month but never cited.

Bernalillo County and Sherese Crawford reached a $100,000 settlement agreement in connection with three stops by sheriff’s deputies on Interstate 40 around Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Journal reported.

Crawford was working a temporary assignment in New Mexico as a deportation officer for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in 2017.

According to her lawsuit, she was stopped once by former deputy Leonard Armijo and twice by deputy Patrick Rael.

“These deputies reminded her that her skin color, not the reality of whether she has violated any laws and not the hard work she has put into becoming an exemplary law enforcement officer, herself , dictates how other law enforcement officers will treat her,” ACLU of New Mexico Legal Director Leon Howard said in a letter to Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales on Monday.

A review of 82 Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office traffic stops on Interstate 40 between January and July 2017 found that 17% of the motorists who were stopped were black, according to Howard’s letter. Around 2.6% of New Mexico’s population is black.

Gonzales said in a statement Tuesday that his office “does not condone the actions by the deputies mentioned in this incident.” Both were disciplined, required to attend additional training and removed from their positions. One has since resigned.

Crawford’s lawsuit, filed in late 2017, outlines the explanations she was given for each stop. Two of those, passing on the right side and tailgating, were “incontrovertibly contradicted” by dash camera footage, Howard wrote. Howard pointed out in an interview that not all Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office vehicles are outfitted with dash cameras.

Crawford was also stopped when, according to the deputy, her license plate came back as a “skip,” indicating her rental car could have been stolen. She later confirmed that the car was registered correctly.

In his letter, Howard encouraged the sheriff to implement mandatory implicit bias training and to allow a qualified professional to review Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office policies and procedures to ensure they are free of bias.

“We have a sheriff right now who has not shown that he is receptive to change and to responding to the community to create a more fair and transparent police department,” Howard said.

In his statement, Gonzales said the Sheriff’s Office offers and requires multiple training courses in cultural diversity, unbiased policing, and constitutional law.

“The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office is one of the most diverse law enforcement agencies in the country,” Gonzales said.

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