Virginia AG files lawsuit against town police department for ‘discriminatory policing’

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has filed a lawsuit against the town of Windsor amid growing concerns about its police department’s alleged “unconstitutional and discriminatory policing.”

The lawsuit, filed on Thursday, December 30 in Isle of Wight Circuit Court, accuses the law enforcement agency of violating the Virginia Human Rights Act. The findings are reportedly based on “data indicating that ‘approximately 42% of traffic stops are conducted on Black drivers,'” according to Axios.

As the lawsuit was filed, Herring released a statement addressing the situation.

“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,” said Attorney General Herring.

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He added, “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.

He went on to express the importance of transparency and reliability among state officials.

“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 lawsuit stems from an investigation that was launched following a traffic stop that occurred back in December 2020. During that stop, two police officers drew firearms on Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino Army officer. He was pepper-sprayed by the officers.

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The lawsuit accused the department of lacking “adequate policies to ensure that it is using force in a non-discriminatory manner.”

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