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Activist group looking into possible racial profiling by Waukesha Co. Sheriff’s Department

WAUKESHA COUNTY (CBS 58) – The community activist group, Common Ground, is looking into possible racial profiling by the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department.

On Monday, the group held a press conference where two local pastors talked about an interaction they had with a sheriff’s deputy in May.

The two pastors, Demetrius Williams and John Patterson, say they were returning home from a day of fishing and driving on Interstate 94 on May 1. The men say they got a flat tire and pulled over to the side of the highway.

Soon after, a Waukesha Co. Sheriff’s deputy pulled up behind them and the men say they thought the deputy was going to help. However, according to Williams and Patterson, they weren’t offered any assistance and were asked if they had any drugs or guns in the car. They say the deputy then asked for both of their licenses instead of helping.

“Instead we were treated with suspicion and background checked,” Patterson said. “Instead we were treated like criminals because we were African American men.”

Common Ground delivered a letter to the sheriff’s department asking for more information on the deputy and his conduct. The group also wants to hear from the community to find out if this is a pattern or an isolated incident.

The Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department says racial profiling is prohibited. In a statement, the department says the incident was investigated and no violations of policy or procedure were found.

You can read the full statement below:

"Racially biased policing is prohibited in the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Office. Racially biased policing is not trained, condoned or tolerated. Citizen complaints of racial profiling allegations are readily taken and are investigated consistent with existing policy and state law. We have a comprehensive complaint process which we follow to insure that policies are followed and citizen services are provided at a high level.

Because of my commitment to that process I have taken steps to investigate a motorist assist incident that was identified by Common Ground. No violations of policy, training or procedure have been uncovered during this investigation. I have reasonably concluded that no evidence exists that actions taken by deputies were motivated by race. No detention, arrest, use of force, or other unprofessional conduct has been identified.

Copies of the correspondence between Common Ground and my office, copies of our policies relating to non-biased policing and our complaint process along with the full investigative report of this matter are available for inspection consistent with Wisconsin Public records law. Common Ground was provided with all of this information prior to their demonstration today.

-Eric Severson, Waukesha County Sheriff"

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