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Groups accuse Zebulon police of racial profiling

Posted May 1, 2010
Updated May 2, 2010

— Three civil rights groups say police in Zebulon are targeting members of a Latino church outside town at traffic checkpoints.

Zebulon police accused of racial profiling ‎ Zebulon police accused of racial profiling ‎

The American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, the N.C. Justice Center and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice have asked for records of traffic stops from Zebulon police and the Wake County Sheriff's Office dating back to 2006. They say they suspect racial profiling is at work.

“That’s causing a sort of chilling effect on people's ability to attend church,” said Jeff Shaw, communications director for the North Carolina Justice Center, a Raleigh think tank.

The groups say members of Iglesia de Dios "Catedral de Jesus" have complained that checkpoints have been going on during church services for months. White and black drivers are usually waved through the checkpoints, which focus on Latino drivers, witnesses told the groups.

“We’ve been using this particular location long before that church was ever built there. It’s just the best location,” Zebulon Mayor Bob Matheny said.

Matheny said Saturday that a lot of checkpoints have been set up a quarter-mile from the church because the area draws a significant amount of traffic.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison said he is not even sure if his deputies ever assisted Zebulon police at that location.

“But if we were out there, it was legal,” Harrison continued.

Both Harrison and Matheny said the goal at checkpoints is to make sure people who are impaired or don't have a license aren't on the road. However, for the members of the church, they say it seems like harassment.

“You can make all the excuses and justifications for it that you like,” Shaw said.

“I mean, are we supposed to not check for a driver's license? That’s our job to keep the people of Wake County safe,” Harrison said.

The groups also accused law enforcement of interrupting church services to "harass members of the congregation seeking information." Church attendance has declined as a result of the moves, officials said.

“They are scared, very scared,” Iglesia de Dios minister Francisco Hernandez said.

Zebulon Police Chief Tim Hayworth was out of town and unavailable for comment Saturday. Matheny said he will meet with Hayworth and other town leaders on Monday to discuss the matter.

7 Comments

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  • delilahk2000 May 3, 5:07 p.m.

    I SAY ROUND THEM UP AND SEND THEM BACK TO WHERE THEY CAME FROM AND ALSO ARREST THE ONES THAT ARE HARBORING A CRIMINAL. I HOPE THE SHERIFF DOES NOT BACK DOWN, I FOR ONE AM SICK AND TIRED OF COWERING DOWN TO THESE PEOP0LE, JUST BECAUSE THEY COMPLAIN. STOP BRAKING THE LAW. YOU ARE ILLEGAL SO LEAVE. WE ARE SICK OF IT AND THE BURDEN OF THE COST.

  • Mugu May 3, 3:27 p.m.

    If you're looking for an illegal, you go to where the illegals hang out... if you're looking for a pilot, you go to where they hang out... doctors, lawyers... how is this profiling?

  • ncguy May 3, 1:43 p.m.

    Hmm targeting illegal activity- imagine that- of all the nerve!

    Keep up the good work Zebulon PD!

  • beachboater May 3, 1:31 p.m.

    “I mean, are we supposed to not check for a driver's license? That’s our job to keep the people of Wake County safe,” Harrison said.

    The sheriff pretty well summed it up. ACLU and company are supporting lawbreakers.

  • dlb800 May 3, 12:08 p.m.

    I think they are scared because some of them are illegal aliens.

  • stevenalowe May 3, 11:10 a.m.

    They could always head back to Mexico, I'll be glad to point which direction is south.

  • believer58 May 3, 10:53 a.m.

    Heard this on the news this a.m.....and can without a doubt it is yet another bogus claim by these groups. Have driven Hwy #96 into Zebulon weekly for many years and it has been a favored spot for license checks and/or traffic tickets long before this church was built. Speed limit on #96 goes drops 55/45/35/25 with 45/35/25 in a very short span going into town and at one time was a favored spot by the Hwy Patrol who like to hid behind a barn on a path in the same area.

    NAACP and ACLU has cried wolf so many times...that it is difficult to believe anything they claim.