LOS ANGELES (CN) – Pomona and its Police Department harass Latinos by setting up checkpoints around the city during rush hour so it can impound as many cars as possible, residents say in a federal civil rights complaint. More than 50 plaintiffs say officers crashed a church meeting held to plan a response to the illegal profiling.
Pomona residents were at Centro Promesa de Dios church on Aug. 21, some praying at Mass and others attending a meeting held by the “Pomona Speaks/Pomona Habla” Coalition.
The meeting was called to plan peaceful protests of the Police Department’s checkpoints “whose sole purpose was to target Latino residents,” according to the complaint.
Police have a financial interest in impounding cars because officers were earning up to $30,000 a year in overtime from working the checkpoints, the complaint states.
The protestors say officers came to the church Mass and meeting dressed in street clothes, but made no secret of who they were. They were “spying,” members say.
The officers allegedly crashed the meeting by screaming and laughing at parishioners and intimidating them.
Police Sgt. Patrick O’Malley “made loud threats of violence against plaintiff Efrain Ornelas,” who had sought public documents on the checkpoints and their financial beneficiaries, according to the complaint.
The Pomonans say the city and its police force were retaliating against community members who had protested the checkpoints.
The plaintiffs allege violations of their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights, and threats and intimidation. They seek and injunction and special damages. They are represented by Luis Carrillo of South Pasadena.