Fort Bend Sheriff's Office accused of racial profiling
FORT BEND COUNTY, Texas - Fort Bend County Sheriff and candidate for Congress Troy Nehls is facing allegations of allowing racial profiling on his watch.
On Friday, leaders of the Latino, Black, and Muslim communities rallied outside the Fort Bend County Justice Center. The group gave anecdotes of law enforcement disproportionately stopping people of color.
They say their claims echo the allegations of a complaint filed with the Fort Bend County District Attorney's Office this summer by Attorney Jeff Strange.
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Strange represents four Hispanic men who were stopped by three officers from law enforcement agencies -- the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office, Rosenberg Police Department, and Richmond Police Department. All three officers were part of the Fort Bend County Narcotics Task Force, which is overseen by Sheriff Nehls.
"These are three specific officers that are tasked to do highway interdiction and they're stopping 90 percent of minority drivers and over 80 percent Hispanic," Strange told FOX 26.
Records obtained by Strange show out of the 1,237 stops conducted by the officers in 2018 and 2019, 1,095 were Hispanic.
Strange adds most of the stops were for going less than five miles over the speed limit in a construction zone.
"These officers are simply running the license plates and making decisions to make traffic stops based on that," he said.
Strange found the drivers were overwhelmingly from the Rio Grande Valley and searched.
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Those who rallied outside on Friday expressed they are upset Nehls has yet to accept meetings or interviews to address this complaint and their concerns.
"We are united today because we've had enough. We're united today because he won't take our calls. We're united today because he won't answer to us," said Tony Diaz with LULAC.
Nehl's office declined an interview with FOX 26 about the complaint. Instead, a spokesperson sent the following statement: "The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office does not racially profile persons. The statistics this allegation is relying on are “cherry picked” and misleading. To be clear, the racial profile report submitted to the State by the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office shows that our stops of persons shown as Hispanic for the year 2019 was 16% of total stops. This shows no pattern of disparate stops versus population numbers."
However, Strange's complaint is specifically about three officers on the task force, not the sheriff's office.
The Sandra Bland Act requires police departments to document all traffic stops.
"The fact that they have this data and did nothing about it?" Strange asked rhetorically.