ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A black female federal immigration agent on assignment in New Mexico was repeatedly pulled over by sheriff's deputies — and twice by the same deputy — with no probable cause, according to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico.
The group filed a lawsuit Tuesday in state district court on behalf of Sherese Crawford, 38, against the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department stemming from three traffic stops that the ACLU said amounted to racial profiling.
Crawford, a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportation agent, was first stopped in April on suspicion of driving a stolen car but was actually driving a rental car provided by her agency, the lawsuit said.
Later that month, Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputy Patrick Rael then pulled her over for tailgating, the lawsuit said. When he examined Crawford's license, court documents said he recognized her name and asked her if she had been pulled over the week before. Rael said he remembered Crawford's name because an officer also with her federal agency and a sheriff's deputy present at the first stop had said that she had an "attitude," according to the lawsuit.
Days later, Rael pulled over Crawford for driving too slow, the lawsuit claimed.
Crawford did not receive warnings or citations during any of the traffic stops, the lawsuit said.
"Our client is an accomplished federal agent who was targeted for driving while black," said ACLU of New Mexico attorney Kristin Greer Love. "BCSO unlawfully and repeatedly stopped her because she fit a racial profile. Targeting people because of the color of their skin is unconstitutional and bad policing."
Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Felicia Maggard said the department cannot comment on pending litigation. A Facebook message left seeking comment with the union representing sheriffs' deputies, the Bernalillo County Deputy Sheriff's Association, was not immediately returned.
The ACLU seeks an unspecified amount in damages for Crawford and policy changes on racial profiling within sheriff's department.
According to the department's website, Undersheriff Rudy Mora, during his two decades in law enforcement, has helped to develop various policies, including one addressing racial profiling.
As for the sheriff's office, Maggard said its standard operating procedures are posted online.
Those procedures state that the department takes seriously any allegations of bias-based policing. Deputies who witness incidents or are aware of them are required to report them to supervisors.
The lawsuit comes as the Bernalillo County deputies who patrol the state's largest metro area in and around Albuquerque have been involved in nine shootings in a four-month period, spurring criticism from civil rights groups and activists.
Sheriff Manuel Gonzales also has drawn criticism for saying that no one has provided him with data showing that body cameras on deputies make the community safer.
He said last month that he won't require his deputies to wear them because he said the media would use the footage to criticize the officers. Gonzales told KOAT-TV that the video "gives a lopsided, one-sided story, which I think is a disservice to the whole community."
Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP's race and ethnicity team. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras