Letter from the Monterey County Chapter of the NAACP to USDOJ, Civil Rights Division

December 29, 2009

Luz Lopez-Ortiz
Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division   
Coordination and Review Section                   
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530

Dear Ms. Lopez-Ortiz,

The Monterey County Branch of the NAACP fully supports a complaint filed with the Justice Department by the Monterey County League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) against the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, and confirms that such unfortunate racial profiling as claimed by LULAC does indeed occur.

The Monterey County Branch of the NAACP has an ongoing, cordial and extremely supportive cooperation and collaboration with all local Monterey County LULAC chapters. We have and will continue to work with all local LULAC chapters on many issues pertaining to their members and ours.

The members of the Executive Committee of the Monterey County Branch of the NAACP join LULAC in their plea and strongly appeal to you to help put a stop to such abusive and discriminatory practices that steadily and repeatedly occur every year. Please be informed that such racial profiling and misconduct by law enforcement has been rampant in Castroville for decades. The Monterey County Branch of the NAACP is, therefore, encouraging the Justice Department to follow through with a “pattern and practices” investigation of allegations of abusive misconduct and racial profiling by the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office and Gang Task Force in Castroville, California.

We support LULAC’s request urging the U.S. Justice Department to seek a court ordered consent decree to put a stop to the racially and ethnically discriminatory and abusive practices that will be uncovered through this investigation, to construct measures to hold law enforcement officers accountable, to stop using Castroville as training ground for law enforcement, to create a civilian complaint review board, and to include and emphasize community policing in law enforcement training.

Please share our concerns and our support for LULAC’s complaint with the Attorney General and the relevant sections and departments within the Justice Department. 

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Sincerely,

Sincerely,

Dr. Kathrina M. Ognyanovich
Second Vice President
Monterey County Chapter of the NAACP 
Contact Information:
Email: EPA 2001@aol.com
Phone: 831.373.0117

Mel Mason
Past President
Monterey County Chapter of the NAACP
Contact Information:
Email: MMason3747@aol.com
Phone: 831.394.2869

cc: Linda Quash, U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division

ADDENDUM

 The situation according to witnesses is as follows:

Allegations of racial profiling and law enforcement misconduct have been rampant in Castroville for decades.  The most recent involves an incident in which twelve adults and one juvenile were arrested as a result of a three-day operation to target gang members in June 2009. The four complaints below exemplify some of what the community experienced.

-In one incident on June 25, 2009 Amparo Gutierrez, 80 years old, and her two sons were woken at 3 a.m. when the Sheriff’s Gang Task Force and SWAT team threw a smoke bomb into their home, setting the curtains and their sofa on fire.  The family says they were terrorized by guns and with verbal and physical abuse

-In a second incident on June 26, 2009, Donna Torres reports that law enforcement officials with the Task Force and Sheriff’s deputies used excessive force and endangered her 19-month-old child by throwing a smoke bomb into her home.  They then pepper-sprayed and kicked her boyfriend, Frankie Torres, as he was handcuffed on the floor.

-In a third incident, Graciela and Hector Rodriguez Marlow, claim they were handcuffed and taken outside their home as deputies conducted a probation search in their house for their nephew, Frankie Torres.  Ms. Rodriguez claims police laughed at her as she cried, and wrongfully portrayed her husband as a gang member.

-And in a fourth incident on June 26, 2006, Sylvia Navarro (then 8 months pregnant) reports having been walking down the street along with her mother and 3-year-old brother, when they were surrounded by Sheriff’s deputies and Task Force officials who demanded to know where her ex-boyfriend was.  Ms. Navarro says they questioned and taunted them in regards to this matter, forced her down to the street, forced her into a patrol car, ridiculed her and her mother and promised she would have her baby in jail. 

The formal complaint filed by LULAC details a number of other incidents. We believe these allegations warrant further investigation.

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