Feds want LA County, Antelope Valley cities to pay $12.5 million in bias case (Read the full report)

File: L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca conducts an inspection of Men's Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles in this photo from December 2011.
File: L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca conducts an inspection of Men's Central Jail in Downtown Los Angeles in this photo from December 2011.
Grant Slater/KPCC

Federal officials who claim that authorities discriminated against black public housing residents want Los Angeles County and two Antelope Valley cities to pay the alleged victims $12.5 million, the Los Angeles Times reports.

U.S. Department of Justice officials want payments from the county’s Sheriff’s Department and Housing Authority and the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale, the newspaper reports. L.A. County officials say $12.5 million has been introduced as a starting point for negotiations.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged last week that sheriff’s deputies in those cities subjected African-Americans in subsidized housing programs to unreasonable use of force, and that blacks were harassed during enforcement of housing compliance checks.

“We found that LASD's Antelope Valley stations have engaged in a pattern or practice of discriminatory and otherwise unlawful searches and seizures, including the use of unreasonable force,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez, in a letter to the Sheriff’s Department.

The allegations are disputed and both county and Lancaster officials say they won’t pay, while Palmdale says the proposed payment is only between the feds and the county.

Perez said that some LASD policy violations were routinely tolerated in the Antelope Valley because department accountability measures weren’t effectively implemented at the two stations to make sure deputies followed policy, directions and were corrected when misconduct occurred.

The letter highlights one instance from three years ago when an LASD deputy took pictures of luxury vehicles in a garage during a Section 8 compliance check and sent them to an “I Hate Section 8” Facebook page.

“Subsequently, the family’s home was vandalized with the message, 'I hate Section 8,'” the letter states. Racial slurs were scrawled on the garage doors and the family ended up relocating from Palmdale for fear of more harassment, according to the letter.

Negotiations are in the early stages, according to L.A. County officials and other parties involved. The DOJ said in a news release last week that all entities have expressed an interest in coming to some sort of court ordered agreement. 

Editor's note: This story has been changed from an earlier version to attribute the $12.5 million figure cited by the federal government to the Los Angeles Times.

Antelope Findings 6-28-13

This story has been updated.