- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

GAYLORD, Minn. (AP) - Officials in the south-central Minnesota city of Gaylord have agreed to pay tens of thousands of dollars to a Mexican immigrant to settle a federal lawsuit that alleged racial profiling.

Minnesota Public Radio News reports (https://bit.ly/1Gjw88D ) that Gaylord and Sibley County agreed to pay $20,000 apiece to Jesus Manuela Mendoza Sierra. She alleged that officers unlawfully detained her and searched her home without a warrant in 2012.

Gaylord officials had long disputed allegations that police heavily targeted minorities for traffic and other stops in a town where Latinos account for, at most, a quarter of the population of about 2,300. An MPR News investigation in 2008 found traffic tickets were disproportionately given to Latinos by Gaylord police.

“I was pretty confident that there was some selective policing before this lawsuit, and this reinforces that,” said Ian Bratlie, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who helped file Mendoza’s lawsuit. He said the group had heard complaints, and wanted a case to take to court.

Gaylord and Sibley County officials still deny that their officers use race or ethnicity in determining whether to stop or question someone. But Mendoza said her experience left her with no doubt that they do.

Mendoza was detained March 9, 2012, by law enforcement officials at a bank. She was a passenger in a car driven by her daughter, who had been accused of using someone else’s name to open a bank account. Her daughter was arrested, and she later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of giving a peace officer a false name of another person.

Officials also investigated Mendoza, finding there were no warrants for her arrest and that her Minnesota identification card was valid. She wanted to leave, according to police recordings given to MPR News, but she was taken to the Gaylord police station.

Officers interrogated Mendoza, and she said one grew angry when she again told him she had legally immigrated to the U.S. Officials took her home, and the lawsuit said they walked inside without permission or a warrant. She showed them her green card and other documents, and they left, the lawsuit said.

Mendoza became a U.S. citizen last year.

In the settlement, city and county officials also agreed to recruit people with Spanish skills as well as racial and ethnic minorities. The city has hired a Hispanic police chief, Tony Padilla, and ACLU lawyers say other strides have been made.

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Information from: Minnesota Public Radio News, https://www.mprnews.org

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