Updated 06/24/2011 07:23 PM
Alamance County, Sheriff, Sheriff's Office sued by Justice Dept.
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GRAHAM, N.C.-- After months of attempting to work with the Alamance County Sheriff's Office, the United States Department of Justice says it's now filing suit.
In a complaint, the DOJ states it's currently conducting an investigation into whether there's a pattern of biased policing against the Latino community by the Alamance County Sheriff's Office and that some employees fear retaliation against themselves or family members if they speak with federal investigators.
But on Friday afternoon Sheriff Terry Johnson said that's not so.
"The allegations that the Alamance County Sheriff's Office has denied access to personnel is not true. Neither myself or the command staff have forbidden any personnel from speaking with the United States Department of Justice," Sheriff Johnson said.
At the heart of the lawsuit, whether the Sheriff's attorney should be in the room while Justice Department investigators interview employees. The DOJ says the attorney should not be there. It's a move Sheriff Johnson says violates his personal rights.
"The Department of Justice, has been made aware that the Sheriff's attorney has a right to be present during questioning of deputies, since deputies through their acts of omission can bind the Sheriff,” Johnson added.
The Department of Justice says they've been trying since July of last year to get the Sheriff's Office to voluntarily comply, and decided to sue when all other measure had failed.
But Johnson says he and his personnel have made repeated attempts to meet with the Department of Justice most recently on May 23, offers he says they declined.
"The Alamance County Sheriff's Office has always welcomed constructive dialogue with the United States Department of Justice, and continues to seek ways to resolve this dispute,” Sheriff Johnson said.
According to the complaint, the Department of Justice initially opened a preliminary inquiry into allegations that the Sheriff's office was engaged in discriminatory law enforcement activities back in November of 2009.
The defendants were notified of the formal investigation on June 2 of last year.