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Sheriff sued over race inequality: Officers do jobs ‘fairly’

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A white Mississippi sheriff who is being sued over allegations that his department violates African-Americans’ constitutional rights says he and his deputies do their jobs “fairly and diligently.”

Madison County Sheriff Randy Tucker issued a statement Thursday, three days after the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi sued him and his department on behalf of black residents of the majority-white county, which is a suburb of Jackson.

“Our deputies are professional law enforcement officials who enforce Mississippi laws,” Tucker said. “If a law is broken, appropriate action is taken regardless of the race of the one breaking said law.”

The lawsuit by the civil rights group claims that officers are unfairly targeting black people for traffic stops and searches of homes and property without reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

The suit seeks a court order against what it calls “a coordinated top-down program” that creates unequal treatment of black and white people. It also seeks a civilian board to review complaints against the department.

ACLU Mississippi executive director Jennifer Riley-Collins said problems in Madison County have existed for generations.

The lawsuit says Tucker, who took office in 2012, has continued longstanding policies, including warrantless searches of black residents’ homes and seizure of their property, vehicle roadblocks that target black people and “jump out” patrols by plainclothes deputies that target black people for searches.

Madison County is 58 percent white and 38 percent black, roughly the same as Mississippi.

“As always, we have fairly and diligently executed the duties for which we are required,” Tucker said. “We are going to vigorously defend the Madison County Sheriff’s Department on every aspect of ACLU’s lawsuit.”

Paloma Wu, legal director for the ACLU of Mississippi, said research for the lawsuit started months ago. She said dozens of people were interviewed, and the ACLU filed numerous public records requests with the sheriff’s department.

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Follow Emily Wagster Pettus on Twitter: http://twitter.com/EWagsterPettus .

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