Lawsuit Served on Bellingham, Mayor, and Police in Racial Profiling Case
The community joins to highlight BPD’s racial profiling against Latinos, collaboration with immigration officials
Bellingham, WA –The Bellingham police officers stopped A.J. on June 20, 2015. In order to “verify his identification,” they promptly called Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). As a result, CBP arrested A.J., a 15-year-old, detained him overnight in the CBP station, and then took him to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, exposing him to a prison facility with immigrant adults. The Bellingham Police Department (BPD) did not issue a ticket or record this incident, and they did not contact his family. After much effort by community groups, fighting to reunite A.J. with his family, immigration authorities released A.J. after being in custody and almost being deported.
BPD works under the Mayor of Bellingham. Since the BPD functions under the privilege of the mayor and city, their sanctioning of BPD’s policies, practices and actions is implied. Therefore, the legal team of A.J. will serve the mayor, city and BPD with his complaint and summons, in conjunction with a press conference outside city hall to protest our city’s and police department’s racial profiling of Latinos.
WHAT: Press conference and Service of Summons and Complaint to the City of Bellingham, Mayor Kelli Linville and the Bellingham Police Department
WHO: A.J.’s legal counsel, community grassroots organizations
WHERE: City Hall-210 Lottie Street, Bellingham
WHEN: Thursday, May 16 at 3:00 p.m.
Bellingham Police Department has publically denied collaborating with Customs and Border Patrol in local traffic matters. BPD stopped A.J. and requested identification from him. When A.J. couldn’t produce one, BPD transferred A.J. into CBP custody instead of being taken to the station for verification of his identity or calling his parents. A.J. spent the night in CBP custody. The next morning CBP sent him to the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma for deportation proceedings. Thanks to community groups in which A.J. participates, including the farmworker union, Familias Unidas por la Justicia, he was released from detention in less than 12 hours.
BPD issued no traffic violation, ticket or any paper trail for this stop. After his release from immigration detention, immigration officials did not pursue deportation proceeding against A.J. BPD changed their policy, twice, soon after the racial profiling of A.J., to include instances in which BPD could call immigration officials. They falsely cited a contract with the federal government, called a 287g. When community groups checked, they found that our city has no such contract with the federal government.
The community cannot trust BPD when they say that they are not collaborating with immigration officials or racially profiling, since they do not collect data on people of color to prove otherwise. BPD promises to protect all members of our community, but when they racially profile even a Latino youth, like A.J., trust is eroded. New measures, the elimination of predictive policing software and reform of harmful law enforcement practices are needed, if BPD is serious about building trust and creating a safer, better community.
The “road to detention” starts with stops like this, but may have serious consequences and tragic results. These stops are acts of racial profiling, dangerous to the community, ineffective policing practices, and a poor use of resources. Ignoring community outcry, the City of Bellingham and BPD recently implemented predictive policing software, leading to more racial profiling of people of color.
Not1More, Community to Community, Whatcom Civil Rights Project, and Latino Advocacy will meet outside the Bellingham Police Department on May 5, 2016, to show support for A.J. and community members who are targets of stops, racial profiling, and abuses by local law enforcement. A.J. bravely takes this action to support other victims and people who live in fear. He wishes to bring these abuses by law enforcement into the light of day.