- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

LANCASTER, Calif. (AP) - Civil rights advocates say the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has made significant progress in improving community relations in the Antelope Valley, particularly with African-Americans and Latinos.

Some of the worst abuses - including raids of subsidized housing recipients - appear to be largely in the past and local officials are doing a better job listening to concerns, Miguel Coronado, an outspoken critic of law enforcement, told the Los Angeles Times (https://lat.ms/1GCF8nt ) for a story published Monday.

Earlier this year, federal officials announced a settlement that legally binds the Sheriff’s Department to a long list of requirements - among them that deputies adhere to basic rules of politeness.

Coronado, who sits on Lancaster’s planning commission, was among those who brought allegations of racially biased policing in the area to federal authorities. He now has the cellphone numbers of high-ranking sheriff’s officials on his speed dial - and he says they pick up when he calls.

Residents rarely call him anymore to complain about the department, when he used to get several complaints a day, he said.

The settlement approved in April came less than two years after federal prosecutors identified a pattern of discrimination that included unconstitutional stops, searches, seizures and excessive force against blacks and Hispanics in Palmdale and Lancaster.

Deputies harassed and intimidated blacks and others in public housing, showing up for inspections with as many as nine officers, sometimes with guns drawn, the Justice Department said in its June 2013 report.

Under the agreement, the Sheriff’s Department admitted no wrongdoing, but agreed to be monitored by three outside experts and must meet 150 requirements over the next four years.

Despite the improvements, and despite the election of a new sheriff generally regarded as progressive, the settlement is necessary to ensure there is no backsliding, said Darren Parker, a local civil rights activist.

“We have to put in checks and balances so that after we’re gone, somebody doesn’t suddenly forget where we are,” Parker told the Times.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, https://www.latimes.com/

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