Rumors of racial profiling have a city, a county and a federal department facing some serious accusations.
The Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition held a news conference Monday on what it considers racial profiling.
Last week, a group called United Latinos of Shelbyville put on a public hearing to discuss what it considers illegal and abusive law enforcement practices in Shelbyville. Several federal agencies were present, including those concerned with civil rights.
Then over the weekend, word came of immigration raids, arrests and what opponents consider intimidation targeted toward those who raised concern with the perceived pattern of racial profiling.
"There are widespread, documented reports of pretextual arrests, Latinos being pulled over and at a higher rate than other folks for the same arrest, being arrested at a higher rate than other folks for the same offense. There are 23 police officers in Shelbyville and somehow, four of them are responsible for 60 percent of all arrests of Latinos," said Stephen Fotopulos, with Tennessee Immigrant and Refugee Rights Coalition.
In response, Shelbyville Police Chief Austin Swing denied any sort of racial profiling, saying, "We apply the law as it needs to be applied. If they're violating the law, we're going to enforce the law. To sit here and say that we treat them differently, I would take issue with that until someone could show me otherwise other than an accusation."
The Bedford County Sheriff was out of the office Monday on bereavement leave.
A spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement didn't return a phone call for comment.
The immigrant rights coalition will soon ask the federal Department of Justice for an investigation.
A lawsuit is also possible, but the group's top leaders told Channel 4 more than that, they want the agencies to police themselves in a better, fairer way.
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