- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

GAYLORD, Minn. (AP) - The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has reached a $40,000 settlement with the Gaylord Police Department and the Sibley County Sheriff’s Office in a case that alleged racial profiling.

The ACLU announced the settlement Friday. In addition to the monetary award, the agreement calls for both agencies to receive diversity training, outfit all squad cars with reliable dashboard cameras, and provide translators in some settings.

The case stems from the 2012 arrest of Jesus Sierra, who has lived in Gaylord for years and is of Mexican origin. ACLU attorney Teresa Nelson said authorities had no evidence she committed a crime, but she was arrested and interrogated.

“There’s a lot of fear in the community about police,” Nelson told Minnesota Public Radio News. “The perception is that they’re out to enforce immigration law any way they can, even with people who are lawfully here.”

Sibley County Sheriff Bruce Ponath told the Mankato Free Press that his department had planned to make these changes even without the settlement, and that his agency’s $20,000 payment would come from insurance. A message left with the Gaylord Police Department on Saturday was not immediately returned to The Associated Press.

Sierra told the Free Press through an interpreter that she was pleased to help the community with the settlement. She said it’s important the department has pledged to try to hire more Spanish-speaking officers.

Ian Bratlie, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s Mankato office, said the group is “happy with what happened in the settlement and also with what’s been happening in Gaylord” outside of the lawsuit. Last year, Gaylord hired Tony Padilla as police chief - who according to Bratlie is the first Hispanic police chief in the state.


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