In December 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice Department had filed suit against the City of Hesperia, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the County of San Bernardino for allegedly failing to enforce the Fair Housing provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.
In December 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice Department had filed suit against the City of Hesperia, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the County of San Bernardino for allegedly failing to enforce the Fair Housing provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. Credit: fairhousingnc.org

S.E. Williams

Just over three years ago on December 10, 2019, the VOICE reported the U.S. Department of Justice Department had filed suit against the City of Hesperia, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the County of San Bernardino for allegedly failing to enforce the Fair Housing provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

On Wednesday, December 15, 2022, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California issued a press release advising of what it described as  a “landmark agreement” to resolve this racial discrimination lawsuit. 

The lawsuit accused the defendents of engaging in “a pattern or practice of discrimination against Black and Latino individuals and communities in Hesperia through the adoption and enforcement of a so-called ‘crime-free’ rental housing program.” 

In relation to the settlement, the  Justice Department affirmed this is the  first resolution requiring the complete end of a “crime-free” rental housing program. 

This latest taking to task of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is just one more red flag and glaring example of the pervasive racism stemming from the policies  of this county and its sheriff’s department. 

Just this  week in an article titled, “More Shocking Revelations Re: Victor Valley Union High School District’s Racist Disciplinary Practices”  more details were revealed regarding the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department’s CleanSWEEP Program and how the U.S. Department of Education’s Office Office of Civil Rights found the program discriminated against minority students in the district, particularly Black students. The program is now suspended and under investigation by  California State Attorney General Rob Bonta. 

“Discriminatory housing policies based on race and national origin, including those sanctioned and implemented by local governments, have no place in our society. This agreement sends a strong message that HUD and DOJ will continue to work together to vigorously enforce our nation’s fair housing laws.”

Deputy Assistant Secretary Demetria L. McCain of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

The VOICE has continued to report on the history of San Bernardino County Sheriffs and how, with the full throated support of the Board of Supervisors, has perpetuated an unspoken policy and practice of good ole boys passing the sheriff’s baton from one to another  to maintain power, control and a history of oppression as evidenced not only by these two examples but others. 

In December 2018, for example, the VOICE reported how the County of San Bernardino entered a settlement agreement and Consent Decree to resolve all the issues associated with charges raised by inmates at the county’s West Valley Detention Center.

The charges included the county’s “failure to provide minimally adequate medical, dental and mental health care to those incarcerated at its jails, failed to prevent unnecessary and excessive uses of force against inmates, and allegedly imposed on inmates the harmful and excessive use of solitary confinement—aggressions that were in clear violation of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”

The Consent Decree agreement was years in the making dating back to the initiation of an FBI investigation that began in 2014. Some of the worst allegations included inmates having shotguns placed to their heads, being repeatedly assaulted with stun guns—often to their genitalia, anally sodomized by jail officials and claims that at times, inmates were even deprived of sleep. 

In a detailed report released earlier this year titled San Bernardino County Sheriff: Will Voters Make Their Own Choice in 2022? Part 1 and Part 2 the VOICE provided a 39-year history of the Sheriff’s Department and how the baton has been passed from one hand-selected sheriff understudy to the next as a way of preempting the voters’ choice. 

In my estimation, the clear history of pervasive racist policies as highlighted in this report (and there are others) are destined to continue until this cycle is broken.  

People of color are now the majority demographic in San Bernardino county and yet, it is still governed like we are living in the “Land of Dixie”.  It is past the time for change. 

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’m keeping it real.

In the coming weeks, The VOICE will publish a full report on the December is year’s landmark settlement to settle the lawsuit against the City of Hesperia and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

Author

  • Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.

S.E. Williams

Stephanie Williams is executive editor of the IE Voice and Black Voice News. A longtime champion for civil rights and social justice in all its forms, she is also an advocate for government transparency and committed to ferreting out and exposing government corruption. Over the years Stephanie has reported for other publications in the inland region and Los Angeles and received awards from the California News Publishers Association for her investigative reporting and Ethnic Media Services for her weekly column, Keeping it Real. She also served as a Health Journalism Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism. Contact Stephanie with tips, comments. or concerns at myopinion@ievoice.com.