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Escondido Residents Use Video To Document Police Efforts


Aired 2/1/11

The Escondido Police Department has had a difficult relationship with its immigrant population. Over the past year, many Latino residents have complained of racial profiling. In recent months, they've organized around the use of technology to try to make a legal case for themselves.

— One day last November, Raquel Barrios received a frantic phone call on her way to work. Her friend Minerva had been pulled over by police for allegedly making a turn without using a signal. Minerva was in the country illegally and driving without a license. She knew that after being arrested, she'd be a perfect candidate for deportation.

This image captured from a Youtube video shows Police conducting a checkpoint...
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Above: This image captured from a Youtube video shows Police conducting a checkpoint in Escondido in July 2010.

Barrios immediately drove to where Minerva was and started to think about her friend's options.

"We had attracted a lot of attention and there were a lot of people gathering with us there," said Barrios. "Cars were driving by very slow, looking, traffic was slowing down. So I figured, well, I didn't have anything to lose, so I just started filming. I knew that I could film it and take pictures."

The video Barrios recorded that day showed the police officer who pulled Minerva over and the tow truck that took her car away. Barrios said she had heard about other immigrants who were pulled over in Escondido, and she felt it was important to keep a record.

Latinos in Escondido say the checkpoints aren't their only concern. They say they've been targeted by a history of measures. In 2006, the Escondido City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting landlords from renting to undocumented immigrants, but that law was struck down in court.

Escondido Police Chief Jim Maher said he doesn't target Latinos.

"It wasn't until 2007 that some of the activist groups began to claim that the checkpoints were just designed to scare away Latinos," he said. "Of course, Latinos are smart enough to know that if you have a license, then you're treated the same as anybody else at a checkpoint."

Since 2004, Escondido police have set up checkpoints every couple of weeks. Residents say they camp out at major intersections and pull cars over to check drivers for valid licenses and look at vehicles for problems -- like broken taillights. A stop for an undocumented immigrant could lead to deportation.

The Escondido Police Department recently partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on a pilot program to crack down on undocumented immigrants previously deported or with a criminal background. According to ICE, the partnership has led to 268 arrests in the last nine months -- 217 of those have been deported.

Maher said the police department doesn't keep demographic data of who's stopped at the checkpoints or who's ticketed. He said the checkpoints and collaboration with ICE have benefited Escondido, even as the number of protesters against both has grown.

"It fits their agenda to say to all the immigrant population 'be afraid of the police,'" said Maher, visibly upset. "You can see I feel pretty strongly. They've worked so hard to divide the community, that all our efforts have to be doubled."

The police department has made an effort to reach out to the Latino community by teaching its officers Spanish and by holding information sessions for immigrant parents to encourage them to keep their kids out of gangs.

Escondido resident Carmen Miranda said those efforts haven't been enough. Standing outside of Escondido City Hall on a recent afternoon, Miranda said she has lost her faith in local police.

"I mean, I went to the police academy, I was going to be a police officer, because I wanted to serve the community," said Miranda. "But then when I started to see what's happening here in Escondido, then I thought, 'oh maybe not.'"

Instead, Miranda is working to rally the city's immigrants by way of text messages, videos and word-of-mouth. Over the last six months, she has protested near checkpoints, holding up signs to warning people from driving through. She said she's also urged people to know their rights once they're detained.

Immigrant attorney Carlos Batara said a recording alone could not make a case for racial profiling by police. But he said the legality of Escondido's checkpoints is currently in question, and the videos may help make that case.

"In my mind, so many of these measures violate constitutional concerns, like due process, but I'm not going to be the final judge of that," said Batara. "Ultimately, that issue needs to be taken up by the higher courts."

Currently, there are attorneys exploring the option of a class action lawsuit against the City of Escondido, by residents who feel they've been unjustly targeted by police over the last six years.

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Avatar for user 'mcgahheyrc'

mcgahheyrc | February 1, 2011 at 7:52 a.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

I cannot comment on the legality of traffic check points as I'm not a lawyer. But lets remember the key word in this whole discussion, "ILLEGAL". The people being arrested at these checkpoints are here illegally. I dont think I need to post the definition since there is little interpretation necessary. Why are we as a nation of laws allowing ILLEGAL imigrants to dictitate public policy. Having lived previously lived in South Carolina I understand the implicataions undocumented workers have on the economy. The answer is not mass deportation of people that are established in the community and contributing, hopefully positively, to the community. We need to bring those already here into the fabric of our nation. That beiing said, unitl we have a poilcy that is established through the proper legislative procedures we need to deal with those discovered in the counrty illegally with the curent laws we have. Making this issue about unreasonable search and seizure is ridiculous. Let's focus our efforts on following the laws we have, or changing them when necessary, instead of trying to take the focus off the real issue of ILLEGAL immigration. Proposing the idead that our law enforcement professionals are the bad guys is just ridiculous! (Key words in this last sentence: LAW ENFORCEMENT. Thats what they do, they enforce the law!)

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Avatar for user 'jonmo'

jonmo | February 1, 2011 at 8:42 a.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

Use of the DEGRADING TERMS “alien” and “illegal alien” to describe undocumented immigrants CASTS THEM AS adverse, strange beings, INHUMAN outsiders who come to the U.S. with questionable motivations. The terms criminalize the persons. Such terms are pejorative not only by those to whom they are applied but by many people of the same ethnic and national backgrounds who are in the U.S. legally.

Ian Birk lied before & during the inquest about how the victim responded before killing him in cold blood. Birk is a Seattle cop that killed a half-deaf man crossing the street ( so no, LAW ENFORCEMENT IS NOT WHAT THEY ALWAYS DO!

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | February 1, 2011 at 8:50 a.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

I've been through three of these check points in three different cities in this area and it makes no difference whether you are white, black, yellow, or blue, if you are violating the law you get a ticket, and if you don't have a license or the proper paperwork your car gets towed. Everyone wants the law to protect them but they don't necessarily want it to apply to them. I'm sick of this pity party nonsense and the frivolous lawsuits that typically follow.

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Avatar for user 'johndoe'

johndoe | February 1, 2011 at 9:40 a.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

I've been living here in Escondido for years. I've seen and passed by a check-point many times. I don't have a problem with checkpoints. They only asked to see my drivers license and that's it. If you know that you a have valid drivers license, and you're not under the influence, you have nothing to worry about. If you don't have a valid drivers license, then don't's just a common sense...especially if you're an ILLEGAL know the consequences when you get caught driving without license...they'll ask for your ID...and if you can't provide one...then they'll gonna find out that your illegal... and they might turn you over to immigration. If you don't want that to happen...then..."DON'T DRIVE WITHOUT A VALID DRIVERS LICENSE". It's a LAW. Our local police are only doing what they think are right to our community. And to all of you who are against this checkpoints telling us that they're only after illegal immigrants....i hope it won't happen to you what happen to my bestfriend's son who got hit by a car driven by unlicensed illegal immigrant under the influence of, what happened? he's son alive but he'll never gonna walk again...he got a lot of hospital bills but he got nothing from the driver at fault because he got no insurance they're suffering a lot of pain from the accident....physical...emotional...and financial...See, IF ONLY THIS GUY IS OUT OF THE STREET...this would not happen...So people...think...if you DONT' HAVE A DRIVER'S LICENSE AND YOU DON'T WANT TO GET CAUGHT...DONT DRIVE....IT'S JUST A COMMON SENSE...USE IT!!!

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 1, 2011 at 10:31 a.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

Did Barrios's video record anything of a dubious nature or was it simply a taping to keep a record of what is going on in Escondido?

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 1, 2011 at 10:33 a.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

"Of course, Latinos are smart enough to know that if you have a license, then you're treated the same as anybody else at a checkpoint."

Unless you are BRIAN BILGEBRAY, then you can tell if someone's "illega" by the clothes they wear.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | February 1, 2011 at 10:36 a.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

Reading Chief Maher's comments over the past months it is obvious to anyone that he is trying to be an "Arpaio West."

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Avatar for user 'FreeEscondido'

FreeEscondido | February 1, 2011 at 9:33 p.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

With all my respect, but you all miss the point. Latinos in Escondido are all being treated like criminals. These checkpoints were all in Latino neighborhoods until ACLU got involved. Nobody deserves to be treated like a second class citizen. Latinos in Escondido should have the same rights and respect as all the white citizens. These checkpoints target Latinos and the chief of police can keep on lying to the citizens of Escondido. All citizen should have the right to choose if they want to go through a checkpoint. These checkpoints actually put officers in danger, when they don't have proper lighting, proper signs before the actual checkpoint. Those traffic cones are not going to stop a real criminal if they have a pound of cocaine and guns in the car. Think about it? Checkpoints are big business for the city. It's not about making our city safer, it's about the city council's agenda against the Latino community and about making big dollars. I think it's about time that all citizen speak out and defend the Latino community, it's the right thing to do.

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Avatar for user 'FreeEscondido'

FreeEscondido | February 1, 2011 at 9:37 p.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

Yeah, they call him Little Joe.

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Avatar for user 'randolphslinky'

randolphslinky | February 3, 2011 at 11 a.m. ― 6 years, 1 month ago

@FreeEscondido - Like I said above, I've been through three of these in recent years, in three different locations and as far as I could tell the neighborhoods were predominately white, I'm white, and every time I got stopped and questioned, I was asked to show my license and proof of insurance. Should I have called the ACLU and complained that because I have no criminal record, pay my taxes and obey our nation's laws that it is unfair for me to be incovenienced for the small percentage caught by the police who don't?

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