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Criminal Justice

LA Sheriff’s Deputies Disproportionately Stop, Search, And Handcuff Blacks In The Antelope Valley

We see two Black students from behind during a protest outside of Lancaster High School in September 2021. The student on the right is wearing their hair in corn rows, has an orange shirt and a black daypack on their shoulders. The student is holding a poster with a white border and a black background on the inside. In blue capital letters at the top left it says "we demand a refund from the police." There is a color photo on the poster of six law enforcement officers pinning someone next to a car. At the bottome left of the poster in orange capital letters it says "cancel the contract." To the right of those words there is a logo that says "cancel the contract." Below the logo in small capital letters are the words "Samuel Chavez Reyes." To the left in the picture is a Black student holding a poster over her head -- we only see the back of the poster, which is all white. The student is wearing a gold scarf on her head, and she has long black hair hanging in braids down much of her back. Sheis wearing a light blue shirt and the light purple strap of a backpack is visible on her right shoulder.
Students protest outside of Lancaster High School during a September rally for student MiKayla Robinson, who was body slammed by a Sheriff’s deputy on campus in August.
(Emily Elena Dugdale/LAist)
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Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies in the Antelope Valley disproportionately target people of color, according to a report released Monday by Neighborhood Legal Services and Cal State Northridge.

The researchers mapped Sheriff’s Department data from 2019; state law requires law enforcement departments to publicly report when they stop people.

The analysis found that Black Antelope Valley residents made up one-sixth of the population, but they were involved in one-third of all deputy stops.

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“It sort of beggars the imagination that that could be explained away,” said report co-author Steven Graves, a Cal State Northridge professor.

Neighborhoods in Lancaster and Palmdale with high concentrations of poor, non-white residents had higher numbers of deputy contacts.

The report found Black people who were stopped were searched at nearly twice the rate of whites, even though “[s]topping Black residents more frequently than white residents did not yield more contraband.” (Contraband was discovered in 8.09% of Black stops, compared with 8.33% of white stops, according to the analysis.)

It sort of beggars the imagination that that could be explained away.
— Report co-author and Cal State Northridge Professor Steven Graves

The researchers also found Black people were far more likely than whites to be handcuffed during a stop.

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The report’s section on students echoed findings from and cited LAist and ProPublica’s investigation that found in 2019, deputies disproportionately stopped and cited Black teens at high schools in Lancaster.

The Cal State Northridge/Neighborhood Legal Services study revealed that school-aged children as young as 5 are having daily contact with Sheriff’s deputies employed as school resource officers.

Black students comprised over 50% of deputy stops in Lancaster and Palmdale, despite making up less than 18% of the K-12 population in those cities, the researchers found.

The analysis also determined that nine of the 20 census blocks with the highest deputy contact rates in the region either contained or directly bordered K-12 schools.

“I have no interest in making them look bad,” Graves said of the Sheriff’s Department. “We’re trying to help, not make it worse.”

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Asked for comment on the report, Capt. Ronald Shaffer, head of the Sheriff's Palmdale Station, said his deputies "perform Constitutional Policing every day."

If you know of or have experienced racism in the Antelope Valley, we want to hear from you. What questions do you have?
Emily Dugdale is working on a one-year special project focused on systemic racism in the Antelope Valley, unpacking the issue through a variety of lenses, including housing, education and law enforcement.