ALBUQUERQUE, NM—Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico filed a lawsuit on behalf of Sherese Crawford, a 38-year-old African-American woman on temporary assignment in New Mexico as an Immigration and Customs Agent (ICE) deportation officer. The lawsuit alleges that Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) deputies racially profiled her by pulling her over three times, twice by the same deputy, within a month with no probable cause or reasonable suspicion that she was breaking the law. None of the three times she was pulled over was she given a warning or a citation.
“Our client is an accomplished federal agent who was targeted for driving while black,” said ACLU of New Mexico Staff Attorney Kristin Greer Love. “BCSO unlawfully and repeatedly stopped her because she fit a racial profile. Targeting people because of the color of their skin is unconstitutional and bad policing. Racial discrimination has no place in New Mexico, and BCSO must take immediate action to ensure that this behavior does not continue.”
The first profiling incident occurred on April 5, 2017 as Ms. Crawford was driving through Bernalillo County on I-40 from the Cibola County Correctional Center to the regional ICE office in Albuquerque. BCSO Deputy Armijo stopped Ms. Crawford, claiming that he had searched a database for her license plate number and the license plate had come back as a “skip plate,” indicating that the vehicle might be stolen. This is a highly unlikely claim given that Ms. Crawford was driving a rental car provided by ICE. During this stop, Deputy Armijo required her to exit the vehicle and walk with him to his patrol unit. After this incident, Ms. Crawford contacted an ICE supervisor in Albuquerque to complain about the pretextual traffic stop, and the ICE supervisor advised her that the sheriff’s deputy had likely stopped her because she fit a profile: an African-American in a rental car.
The second and third stops were made on April 15, and May 3 by Deputy Patrick Rael. In the April 15th stop, Deputy Rael pulled her over for allegedly tailgating. When he examined Ms. Crawford’s license, he recognized her name and asked her if they had pulled her over the week before. He said he remembered Ms. Crawford’s name because an ICE officer and sheriff’s deputy present at the first stop had said that she had an “attitude.” Two weeks later, Deputy Rael pulled over Ms. Crawford for a third time alleging she was driving “too slow.”
“These three incidents taken together clearly show that BCSO has an unconstitutional policy of racial profiling African-Americans,” said Laura Schauer Ives, ACLU of New Mexico cooperating attorney. “It is impossible to imagine that these three stops in close succession with no warning or citation were motivated by anything other than our client’s race. This kind of biased policing not only humiliates and frightens those whom it targets, but it divides communities and seriously damages public trust in law enforcement.”
The ACLU of New Mexico is requesting damages on behalf of Ms. Crawford, as well as any policy changes that the court deems necessary to prevent further racial profiling by BCSO.
María Martínez Sánchez and Kristin Greer Love of the ACLU of New Mexico, and Laura Schauer Ives, Joseph Kennedy, and Adam Flores of Kennedy, Kennedy, & Ives, LLC represent Ms. Crawford in this case.