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Above the Law

SWAT Cops Used to Roust African Americans in Public Housing in Lancaster and Palmdale?

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Fri, Aug 19, 2011 at 1:12 PM

click to enlarge LAPD SWAT: Not the alleged bad guys here.
  • LAPD SWAT: Not the alleged bad guys here.
L.A. county leader Mike Antonovich isn't happy that federal authorities are snooping into how the sheriff's department rousts public housing tenants in Lancaster and Palmdale.

The county supervisor today called the U.S. Justice Department's recently announced investigation "overkill" because the an inquiry by the sheriff's department, the county Office of Independent Review and the Community Development Commission is "days away" from completion.

Antonovich's office also noted some interesting statistics about taxpayer-funded housing for the poor:

Allegations of racial discrimination are absurd when 86% of the Section 8 recipients in Lancaster and Palmdale are comprised of minorities.

Uh, hold on there supervisor. Just because a majority of people in any given situation is comprised of people of color doesn't automatically rule out discrimination. If that were the case there would have been no discrimination in parts of the South (yeah right).

Here's the deal: Allegations are that sheriff's deputies were used by housing authority investigators to roust and intimidate minority residents of public or "Section 8" housing in L.A. County's high desert.

Some background: Minorities, particularly African-American folk, have been moving to Lancaster and Palmdale for the last decade or so to take advantage of cheaper living and lower crime. It's the same kind of migration white people often make too.

There has been some, how shall we say, resistance to the moves, however, among some in those communities.

The Justice Department states:

The investigation will focus on allegations that the Lancaster and Palmdale stations of the LASD are engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race ...

... The investigation will focus on allegations that the LASD has sought to identify during routine traffic stops individuals who use Housing Choice Vouchers, commonly known as Section 8, to subsidize housing costs for low income families. In addition, the investigation will examine allegations that the LASD has conducted warrantless searches of African-American families' homes under the auspices of housing authority compliance inspections, and that housing authority investigators based in the Lancaster and Palmdale sheriff's stations have been accompanied by sheriff's deputies as they conduct routine housing contract compliance checks. At times, it is alleged that the deputies approach the Section 8 recipient's home with guns drawn and in full SWAT armor and conduct searches and questioning themselves, unrelated to the housing program.

The DOJ also wants to know if there's been a "systematic effort to discriminate against African-Americans and Latinos" among county housing officials.

Antonovich says it's too much:

Political pressure to eliminate investigators assigned to the Antelope Valley will have a devastating effect on the County's ability to root out fraud with only three investigators countywide. Meanwhile, over 200,000 eligible families and seniors remain on the County's Section 8 waiting list.

All we know is that we'd hate to have a SWAT team come do a housing "inspection" at our place.

[@dennisjromero/djromero@laweekly.com]

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