JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi says it has new evidence in its racial profiling lawsuit against a county in central Mississippi.
The lawsuit says the Madison County Sheriff's Department unconstitutionally targets black drivers and pedestrians in majority-black neighborhoods and disproportionately subjects them to searches and seizures.
The lawsuit was filed in 2017, and plaintiffs discussed new evidence Wednesday. ACLU of Mississippi, the national ACLU and New York -based law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP said information gathered over the course of six months demonstrates the sheriff's department engages in unconstitutional racial profiling.
Although 38 percent of Madison County residents are black, the ACLU said data collected from the county sheriff's department show that between 2012 and 2017, black residents accounted for more than 70 percent of arrests and citations by the department.
"The evidence ... shows what has been felt in communities of color for decades: that the Madison County Sheriff's Department operates a policing program that targets Black people and Black communities on the basis of race," ACLU of Mississippi said in a news release.
The sheriff's department has consistently said it does not comment on pending lawsuits. A spokeswoman declined to comment Friday to The Associated Press.
The eight named class representative plaintiffs are black men and women, ages 28 through 63. The ACLU says they were "unconstitutionally stopped, searched, or arrested by the MCSD, sometimes violently, while they were merely walking to work, driving in their neighborhood, celebrating with family or just spending time in their own homes."
ACLU lawyers are petitioning a judge for class certification for black people for the case's eight plaintiffs, with subclasses being black people traveling by car and black people travelling by vehicle. If a judge accepts the lawyers' petitions to file a class-action suit, the ACLU's chances of winning could increase.
The ACLU argues that discriminatory practices by the sheriff's department violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.
In June, the department said Sheriff Randy Tucker had established a Madison County Community Advisory Group, comprised of black and white citizens.