Alamance Co. sheriff moves forward after lawsuit for discriminatory practices dropped

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GRAHAM, N.C. -- There have been investigations into law enforcement in Ferguson, Missouri; Baltimore, Maryland and more in recent years, but a top U.S. official with the Department of Justice once called the situation in Alamance County, “The worst case he’s seen in racial profiling” with a department.

Now, after six years of legal battles, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Department is washing its hands of accusations of racial profiling. The Department of Justice has officially dropped its appeal of a lawsuit against the sheriff’s department.

It was a sigh of relief for the department last year when a federal judge ruled there was no evidence any deputies in the department engaged in discriminatory practices.

Friday, Sheriff Terry Johnson got closure on a case that has, as he puts it “kept him up at night.”

It all started when the Department of Justice said they had a person who was the victim of racist practices by a deputy in the department back in 2010. In the time of this lawsuit, the sheriff’s office has been denied federal grants and resources, and spent about $700,000 in legal fees.

Sheriff Johnson says he’s disappointed in the DOJ, calling its tactics “deceitful.” He says he was more concerned with the affect this case had on young deputies trying to do work in the community.

“The officers of the Alamance County Sheriff's office have always served the citizen in a respectful, professional way. And it bothered me to think that my officers had been labeled as villains, racists and profilers,” Sheriff Johnson said.

He also acknowledged the department may not have been able to fight the feds financially without the full support of county commissioners.

The DOJ dropping its appeal comes with some stipulations for the department. It includes updating a bias free policing policy, which the sheriff said was already in place, and continuing to collect and expand on traffic stop data.

A Department of Justice spokesperson had the following comment about dropping the appeal:

“The changes outlined in the settlement agreement are not minor. Among other reform, the Alamance County Sheriff’s Office will adopt a brand new bias-free policing initiative that will mandate new training, identify standards for bias-free policing conduct, implement proactive internal analyses of policing activities to identify and address disparities in law enforcement actions, and require that violations of the bias-free policing policy result in disciplinary action, including dismissal, if appropriate.”