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Frederick sheriff's office settles ACLU racial profiling lawsuit, issues apology

During a virtual news conference Thursday, officials announced that Sara Medrano received $25,000 in damages and an apology letter from sheriff Chuck Jenkins.
Credit: internal

FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland settled a lawsuit that accused the Frederick County Sheriff's Office of discriminatory policing practices.

Sara Medrano, a Latinx resident of Frederick County, along with the Resources for Immigration Support and Empowerment (RISE) Coalition resolved a civil suit with the county and its sheriff, Chuck Jenkins.

Back in July 2019, the initial complaint which involved Jenkins and his deputy sheriffs was filed, as Medrano claimed that she and other Latino immigrants living in Frederick were subject to “unconstitutional interrogation, seizure, and detention based solely on their race and/or ethnicity,” according to court documents.

“It’s not right what they did to me,” Medrano said in a statement released by the ACLU. “I believe there is racism within the police force. It is not just what they are doing against Hispanic people. We are all equal in this country.”

During a virtual news conference Thursday afternoon, officials announced that Medrano received $25,000 in damages and a letter of apology from Jenkins. Frederick County also agreed to pay the plaintiffs $100,000 in costs and attorneys’ fees.

“Today’s settlement is a breath of fresh air and accountability for the misconduct of the sheriff’s office against Ms. Medrano and other immigrants in Frederick County,” ACLU Maryland Attorney Nick Steiner said during the virtual news conference.

The incident that ignited the ACLU lawsuit occurred while Medrano was driving with her daughter and grandchildren when two Frederick sheriff’s deputies stopped her for what was "a broken tail light" and questioned where she was from and what her immigration status was. 

Medrano gave a deputy her Maryland driver’s license and vehicle registration and asked for a Spanish-speaking deputy. The lawsuit states she was then questioned about her immigration status by the Spanish-speaking deputy and detained for about an hour while one of the officers unsuccessfully tried to get a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer to respond to the scene.

The traffic warning she received was written four minutes after she was stopped, according to the lawsuit. Medrano argued that both taillights were working that night and have not been replaced.

The lawsuit states a removal order against Medrano exists, and she “lives in fear of being pulled over again for no justifiable reason.”

In his apology letter to Medrano, Sheriff Jenkins recognized that his deputies’ actions were improper and agreed that he is working to train his deputies regarding the county’s ICE policies and procedures.

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