St. Paul, Minn. (Jan. 30, 2015) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota on Friday announced that it has reached a settlement with the Gaylord Police Department, the Sibley County Sheriff’s office and others for violating the constitutional rights of Jesus Mendoza Sierra.
In March of 2012, Sierra’s Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated when she was arrested, detained and interrogated by law enforcement for no lawful reason. As part of the settlement, and after litigation denying the allegations, the two departments jointly paid Jesus Mendoza Sierra $40,000 and agreed to make changes in police department practices.
“I am so relieved that this case is finally over,” stated Jesus Mendoza Sierra. “I hope that this settlement sends a clear message to police to stop treating people differently because of the color of their skin. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to other people.”
As part of the settlement agreement both Sibley County and the Gaylord Police Department agreed to better and more routine use of dashboard cameras, and additional training on unbiased policing. Gaylord Police Department also agreed to make diversity a priority in their hiring process and to have more translators available for use during police interactions.
Law enforcement’s interactions with Sierra in 2012 started because she happened to be the passenger in a car when the driver was arrested. Law enforcement had no evidence that Sierra had committed a crime, but instead of releasing her immediately, she was detained, arrested and interrogated at the local police station.
“This case is bigger than just Ms. Sierra, because we know racial profiling is happening across Minnesota,” stated Charles Samuelson, Executive Director of the ACLU-MN. “This is about each and every person of color who has experienced police using biased and ineffective tactics that create tensions in communities between its members and the police.”
Attorneys working on the case are: cooperating attorney Albert Goins, Goins Law Offices, Ian Bratlie, Staff Attorney for the ACLU-MN’s Greater Minnesota Racial Justice Project, and Teresa Nelson, ACLU-MN Legal Director.