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Herring sues Town of Windsor, alleging discriminatory policing

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Attorney General Mark Herring has filed suit against the Town of Windsor alleging that its police department has operated in a way that led to discrimination against African Americans and violated their constitutional rights.

This is the first enforcement action against a law enforcement agency under the new state law empowering the attorney general to file suit to stop systemic violations of Virginians’ civil rights.

“While our investigation was spurred by the egregious treatment against Lt. Nazario that we all saw in bodycam footage, we discovered that this incident was indicative of much larger problems within the department,” Herring said. “Our months-long investigation uncovered huge disparities in enforcement against African American drivers, and a troubling lack of policies and procedures to prevent discriminatory or unconstitutional policing. We even discovered evidence that officers were actually being trained to go ‘fishing’ and engage in pretextual stops. That is why I have now filed suit to ensure accountability and to protect Virginians’ rights.

“I believe that Virginians should be able to count on their attorney general to identify and stop violations of their constitutional rights. That’s why I worked with legislators to authorize this kind of investigation and enforcement, and to make the Office of Civil Rights a permanent part of the Office of Attorney General. This work to protect the rights of Virginians must always be at the heart of the OAG’s mission.”

The investigation into the Windsor Police Department was prompted by a traffic stop involving two WPD officers who pulled over Lt. Caron Nazario, a Black Latino man, and proceeded to spray him repeatedly with pepper spray and point firearms at him.

Among the findings uncovered by the investigation are:

  • Disproportionate traffic stops of Black drivers: Black drivers accounted for approximately 42 percent of the department’s traffic stops from July 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021 (810 of 1,907 stops.) During that time period, the Town stopped Black drivers between 200 percent and 500 percent more often than would be expected based on the number of Black residents in the town or county.
  • Disproportionate searches of Black drivers’ vehicles: From July 1, 2020 through Sept. 30, 2021, the department searched more vehicles driven by Black drivers than White drivers, even though Black residents do not constitute the majority of the population of the Town or the Commonwealth.
  • Discrepancy in data reported to Town Council and state authorities. For many of the examined months, there was a significant discrepancy between the number of traffic stops and citations reported to town council and reported to the Virginia State Police for tracking and reporting purposes. In all instances the numbers reported to the Commonwealth were lower than those shared with town council, and the discrepancy has not yet been explained.

augusta free press
augusta free press