Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday that he will revive a drug team that was sharply criticized for disproportionately stopping Latino drivers on the 5 Freeway but said the unit would follow strict constitutional guidelines to prevent racial profiling.
The Domestic Highway Enforcement team was suspended in November after county Inspector General Max Huntsman said a preliminary investigation by his office found the unit was “inherently built to violate the constitutional rights of a vast number of people passing through the I-5 Freeway.”
Villanueva told The Times that a new team of specialized narcotics officers is expected to begin drug enforcement operations on the stretch of the interstate north of Santa Clarita later this year. He said the former team fell short of department standards in how they treated Latino drivers.
“Maybe they started with the best of intentions, but over time they got … a profile that had too much of a component that was constitutionally impermissible,” Villanueva said. “So we need to restart and go back to what’s allowable.”
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