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Deputy Accused of Racial Profiling

January 24, 2001|TIMOTHY HUGHES

A newspaper reporter has filed a complaint against the Sheriff's Department that accuses it of racial profiling after a deputy stopped him on a Moorpark street as he was working.

Mark Jennings, 24, an African American reporter for the Ventura County Star, said he was reporting a story last week in downtown Moorpark when a deputy confronted and questioned him about illegally hawking cell phones.

"He said 'Didn't I talk to you yesterday for selling cell phones?' I said no and he said 'What are you doing here?' I told him I worked for the Star and I gave him a business card," said Jennings.

Although he explained he was a reporter, Jennings said, the deputy continued to press him for several types of identification.

Eventually, the deputy stopped questioning Jennings and tried to engage him in small talk, "but I wasn't much up for it," Jennings said.

Jennings said he filed the complaint to highlight the issues of racial profiling that law enforcement agencies use to pick out potential criminals based on their ethnicity.

"The complaint was filed because people need to know this is real and [African Americans] have to deal with it every day," Jennings said. "This hurts me on a daily basis. People don't understand the pain [African Americans] have to go through."

Sheriff's Capt. Frank O'Hanlon of the Moorpark station said it was a personnel matter and he would not discuss it in detail.

The Sheriff Department's internal affairs division is investigating, he said.

Sheriff's officials, O'Hanlon said, don't "condone or tolerate racial profiling at all."

Jennings, who started at the Star in October, said he was on his third day covering the Moorpark beat when he was stopped.

"I'm definitely angry but I am pleased with the quick response," Jennings said.

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