Civil Rights Law Enforcement Race Race & Justice

DOJ Sues San Bernardino Sheriff’s Dept. and Hesperia Over Racially Discriminatory Rental Ordinance

Taylor Walker
Written by Taylor Walker

On Monday, the Civil Rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the City of Hesperia and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department (SBSD) for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act of 1988, and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, by forcing homeowners to evict black and Latino renters and prospective renters, in hopes of reversing the city’s declining percentage of white residents.

In 2015, Hesperia city officials, with the strong encouragement of the SBSD, according to the DOJ’s complaint, enacted a “crime-free rental” ordinance, “purportedly” to reduce crime.

However, the true purpose of the ordinance,  with the lengthy title of, “Ordinance of the City Council of the City of Hesperia, California, Requiring the Registration and Regulation of Housing Rental Businesses for Crime Free Rental Housing,” was the city officials’ not-very-well-disguised desire to solve their “demographical problem,” by driving black and Latino renters out of the city of Hesperia, in the same way that a homeowner would “call an exterminator out to kill roaches,” as one city leader characterized the situation.

Specifically, the ordinance required property owners to evict tenants if the sheriff’s department determined those tenants had engaged in illegal activity on or near the rental property. Drug offenses occurring at any location — not just at home — triggered the same three-day eviction notice under the ordinance.

Additionally, the ordinance required both criminal background checks and sheriff’s department screenings for prospective renters. The SB Sheriff’s Department was also directed to carry out annual property inspections.

Members of the SBSD, whose job it was to enforce the city ordinance, demanded evictions of entire families, including those with small children, “for conduct involving one tenant or even guests or estranged family members,” the DOJ wrote. Victims of domestic violence were among those not spared from losing their homes under the ordinance.

The SBSD carried out eviction orders even “in the absence of concrete evidence of criminal activity,” and also in cases when no one was arrested. To make sure that the ordinance’s requirements were followed, the sheriff’s department and the city threatened and took action against those property owners who failed to eject their renters with a three-day eviction notice, hitting them with steep fines.

Enforcement was also blatantly racially targeted, according to the DOJ complaint. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revealed that black renters were nearly four times as likely as white renters to be evicted under the new rule. Latinos were more than 25 percent more likely to be kicked out of their homes than their white peers. These evictions largely occurred in minority areas of Hesperia.

As the city was working to enact the ordinance, various officials made statements that made clear their “discriminatory intent,” according to the complaint.

City officials stressed that the problem was that undesirable minority people from Los Angeles County were moving to Hesperia, despite the fact that, as the DOJ’s complaint states, “approximately three-quarters of new Hesperia residents between 2012 and 2016 moved there from other parts of San Bernardino County.”

“I can’t get over the fact that we’re allowing … people from LA County,” Mayor Eric Schmidt said, “to mov[e] into our neighborhoods because it’s a cheap place to live and it’s a cheap place to hide.” The renters that “aggravate us” he said, “come from somewhere else with their tainted history.”

City Councilmember Russ Blewett stated that the people that the ordinance would affect were “no addition and of no value” to Hesperia, “period,” and should “get the hell out of our town.”

“I want their butt kicked out of this community as fast as I can possibly humanly get it done,” Blewett added.

Mayor Pro Tem Bill Holland, too, said the goal was to “surgically … eliminate” the “elements that create an inordinate amount of problems in every single neighborhood,” and “make them go somewhere else.”

The ordinance, he said, would force each landlord “to rid his rental … of that blight,” in the same way that one would “call an exterminator out to kill roaches.”

“Same difference,” Holland said.

In addition, Hesperia leaders allegedly intended specifically to free up housing vouchers by, as City Councilmember Mike Leonard said, ejecting “people that are sucking up Section 8 housing.”

“We need to get them out,” Leonard said.

In the city, where a majority of residents are people of color, three-quarters of Section 8 renters are black or Latino.

Captain Nils Bentsen, of the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department, noted that in the absence of the ordinance, it took his department “years to … find some criminal charges [and] arrest the people” he deemed to be a drain on Section 8 housing.

The ordinance, Bentsen said would be “lighter on the requirements” for eviction “and more heavy on the enforcement.”

The tactics echo a similar scheme that the DOJ moved to quash in the northern part of LA County in 2015 involving the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. In this case, too, multiple local agencies were working together to keep black people (and to a lesser extent, Latino people) out of Section 8 housing.

In the 2015 case, the investigation by the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ found that officers from the Palmdale and Lancaster stations of the LA County Sheriff’s Department were conducting racially-biased searches and seizures, using excessive force against people already in handcuffs, and harassing and intimidating Section 8 housing voucher holders along with the Housing Authority of Los Angeles County (HACLA), with the intent to oust residents and push them into moving out of the area.

As part of a settlement with the DOJ, the housing agency agreed to implement 150 reforms and to compensate residents with $1,975,000 for the systemic discriminatory treatment.

“Individuals and families have a right to live where they choose, regardless of their race or national origin,” Anna María Farías, Assistant Secretary for Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at HUD said in response to the DOJ’s actions against Hesperia and the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department. “HUD applauds today’s action and will continue to work with the Justice Department to address policies and practices that violate this nation’s fair housing laws.”



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Image of a Hesperia, CA neighborhood by Yosuke Wainai, Flickr.

42 Comments

  • This mirrors the Department of Justice doing the same with Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in Antelope Valley, not so long ago.

    • Remember

      This is the Federal Department of Justice

      And that means

      Trump.

      Why?

      The Presidential election is now

      less than a year away.

      • The 2020 Presidential election will determine how America really feels.

        When all of the finger pointing in the current administration and “blasts” to the past Presidents are over, a “sleeper” will come through the ranks.

        2020 will definitely be a eye opener, MASA – May America See Again

  • Big rich cities dumping their undesirables on smaller, poorer communities. Pretty clever really, make the people getting dumped on look like the bad guys, while no one notices the man behind the curtain pulling the levers of power. The old “inner city bad neighborhoods” are often located in geographically desirable areas, too close to beaches, good weather, and rich city centers to leave to broke welfare recipients. But how do get rid of a bunch of poor people of color without looking like the bad guy? With the magic of section eight of course. What single welfare mom wouldn’t jump on a newer single family house in the desert over an old run down apartment in south L.A.? not like she’s going to have to make that hellish commute or anything.

    The poor working stiffs who live in these desert communities wind up being the losers. Priced out of the nicer costal areas, they’re stuck making the best of their situation. But just in case they get any big ideas on controlling who gets dumped into their communities via section eight, state and federal agencies are there to make sure they understand that they have no choice in the matter.

    • You’re absolutely correct and yet there is no civil excuse for the Law Enforcement Agencies patrolling those area to act like the Gestapo.

  • Madame KKKong, how do you really feel. Most of these are Section 8 vouchers that folks speak of. For someone to move into the dwelling you need two people to agree, the landlord and the tenant. So, who is getting dumped. And, why should you have the ability to keep “undesirables” out? Who determines who is an undesirable? You? Please? You have quite a number of undesirables in your ranks (see below). Reminds of the days when some white people would get all “worked up” when a person of color tried to move into the neighborhood. People like you considered them undesirables and did everything to keep them out, from brick throwing to house burning, and in some places your ilk even rioted. Yes, rioted and it was not because the porcine patrol beat you up.

    I am more concerned about keeping the police that fondle dead women out of town. Dead you happen to catch that piece in the LA Times? How about that one? You guys can sure pick the winners. You got all of your bases covered, from little girl cadets to female prisoners to dead women. No woman is safe around overweight cops. I am beginning to think some of yours use the police force to meet “women,” even if they are underage or dead.

    • I long ago gave up the notion of considering who or what you are. You are a blithering racist idiot who paints cops with a very broad brush, but curiously go silent on the misdeeds of the rest of the world. No matter how many dispersions you cast on law enforcement, it will never allow you to escape the miserable wretchedness of your pathetic existence.

    • Cf, going to the party of friend of a friend who lives close to the “sketchy” part of town doesn’t make you an honorary person of color. I’m sure you have some token buddies from the “hood”, but I’m also sure you keep away from certain parts of town where you feel unsafe, and you dang sure don’t live in one of those areas. (Until it’s safely gentrified that is)
      I understand you feel guilty about this and want to show off your “street cred” by hating on the cops, but it comes across as forced and fake.

  • Keep Dreaming-

    The reason I do not broadcast my thoughts on the misdeeds “of the rest of world,” as you say, is because the rest of the world does – you, the DA, the media, Trump, your neighbors, FOX, etc, etc. And, “the rest of the world,” as you call them, does not claim to be heroes, as your ilk does. They do not commit crimes while getting paid by the same people they are entrusted to protect. The kid that shoplifted did not do so while wearing a badge and having the full wight of the state behind him. The woman who claimed one more child on her application did not do so with a gun on her side, a gun issued by the state. And, the man pushing someone into an alley to rob them did not do so by flashing a badge issued by the state. You are special, not because YOU are special, but because of the badge and gun you carry and weight of the state, because of the power those things confer on you, and because your job is to protect people, the same people against whom some of your ilk commit crimes. Hopefully that explains it.

    BTW, I saw that even your union says it will not defend the necrophiliac officer. I guess the union thinks its not so bad fondling live women, they will defend an officer against such charges, but they draw the line when the woman is dead. Police logic.

    Madame KKKong – I do not hate cops. Everything I share is public information. Are you really going to deny there are necrophiliacs on the force. Are you going to deny there are child molesters, drug dealers, drug abusers, men who hit women, or rape them, officers who sexually abuse underage cadets or inmate, who lie on their reports, who submit fraudulent disability claims, who drive drunk, who assault others, including other cops. Which of these will you deny.

    • Cf, “I don’t hate cops” then goes on to indulge her obsession ,rattling off her usual talking points. Sorry cf , cops occupy too much of your mind , that much obsession can only be explained by love or hate. Why don’t you tell us the whole story, it might help.

  • Keep Dreaming aka Um aka Villanueva’s spouse – Law enforcement personnel must live to the highest ethical an moral standards on and off duty. They took that job – they get paid very well for it. … and lets not forget the pension they get to live like kings and queens after retirement. So stop this veil of ignorance BS.

    Drip drip drip ..when does this stop. I bet they like their paychecks. If they feel they cannot live up to those standards they can quit. There is no place for law enforcement personnel to behave like thugs in society. If you think they can work in the gray then there is no difference between criminals and law enforcement.

    • No one is claiming ignorance or an unwillingness to hold accountable those who cross the line, so your point is pretty weak. The sheriff has already fired 24 this year alone for crossing the line, so there goes your whole theory. Please tell exactly how you think he tolerates thugs within the ranks?

  • Law enforcement is made up of members of society with all the biases, weaknesses and issues that plague all human beings. Just as no one should put an athletes or entertainer on a pedestal, neither should they idolize a law enforcement officer or any human being for that matter. They are just trying to do a job and make living just like everyone else in the world. Whistle blowers, disgruntled former employees, bad actors occupy all levels of society from the President on down. There of course are dishonest and unethical politicians, judges, ministers, priests, attorneys, doctors, journalist, business people, computer programmers, engineers, etc, etc.

    So, get off the bandwagon and stop demonizing police officers, they are mere mortals just like all the imperfect humans that walk the face of the earth. If you are without faults, good for you but the reality is everyone has faults.

    At least police officers are willing to try and make our society safe, the same society they have in as well as their families.

    • CF – In the case of the officer fondling the lady that had passed away, the department audited his camera, discovered his actions, placed him on leave, is conducting an investigation and to cut to the chase, his career is over. The union has also expressed their disgust. They did the right thing and publicized their actions. So what’s the problem? What planet would you like agencies to hire from so we employ these perfect people you envision? Wrong is wrong – whether the person has a badge or doesn’t. Many of us have said that here. Would you support those working in the system stereotyping others? If not, I guess I don’t understand your ongoing remarks that stereotype everyone for the misconduct of a relative few.

      Hmmmm – Amen. Law enforcement hires from the human race. With over 650,000 police officers alone in the US, these stories represent a tiny minority; a fact conveniently ignored by some here.

  • Take a Breath – Do you think this is the first time the LAPD officer did this heinous act. I do not think so. He just got caught on camera performing the act, like any other criminal.

    We all know recruits are hired from the human race, and not from Mars. Higher standards and ethics means public trust at all times. You know just like the 300 Deputies at LASD who must be fired since they have betrayed that trust between the communities and LASD by breaking the LAW or Departmental policies. They cannot be trusted to swear an oath and tell the truth…. so why should they have a badge. Guess you think they are honorable and should not be held to those high standards.

    LASD is run like the Trump Administration, loyalty to Villanueva, and you can get away with working in the ” gray “. A man who says he is a Latino, but allows the BANDIDOS ( Latino Deputies who beat the shit out of or sexually assault female Latino Deputies ) as part of the initiation into ELA station.

    • shit show by 2 – “They cannot be trusted to swear an oath and tell the truth…. so why should they have a badge. Guess you think they are honorable and should not be held to those high standards.”

      Not sure how you derived such nonsense from what I wrote but let me clear up the fog.
      From the top of this nation right on down, better leadership is welcome. Re the Sheriff, I think he’s made some avoidable and serious errors; time will tell in terms of what he’s learned. Are you aware of how many sworn Deputies are on LASD? Are you aware of how many terminations have occurred since the Sheriff took over? You may want to do some research.
      As a related aside, especially if the Feds are involved, there will eventually be hell to pay for anyone foolish enough to engage in illegal conduct, civil rights violations, etc. That’s already been well demonstrated and I suspect there are several more cases coming. As far as I am concerned, let the truth fall where it may. People that came on the job for the right reasons that are decent and hard working will won’t miss those problem children.

      Do I think cops routinely molest dead female bodies? No – and to suggest that conduct is some sort of wide ranging behavior is ridiculous and frankly, beneath you.

      I don’t disagree with some of the concerns that you and others express. What I’d really like to hear are suggestions to move forward as opposed to the nasty generalizations that perpetuate mistrust and misunderstanding.

      • Take A Breath – Don’t all LASD Deputies engage in racially targeting people in Black and Latino neighborhoods. I am sad you feel offended when LASD Deputies are generalized for their misdeeds. These lies and delusions must come from the couple who run LASD. Their insecurities of having the OIG looking into the Sheriff.

        • The answer to your query is no, most do not. Hope that’s clear enough for you.

          I see that I’ve been hoping for a blind person to see. Enough said.

    • So you want to fire 300 deputies? I guess you’ve never heard of the 14th Amendment, good luck with that. Perhaps you are willing to foot the bill for the massive lawsuits that will generate, since each and every case was decided by past sheriffs and not the current one? McDonnell and Baca both brought back deputies or failed to fire deputies who had no business being a sworn peace officer, and of course the OIG and the BOS had ZERO to say about that because they didn’t care.

      Villanueva has fired over two dozen employees, so much for your “working the gray” theory. He runs the LASD the way it’s supposed to be run, as an independently elected leader who answers directly to the community. I don’t think the sheriff has any problem with the OIG or the COC providing oversight, but there is a fine line between watch dog and attack dog, and poor little Huntsman crossed that a long time ago.

  • Keep Dreaming- So what you are saying is that it is ok for Deputies who lie and are dishonest to lie under oath just to get a conviction. The DA’s office then realizes that the Deputy lied under oath or the defense counsel finds out that the Deputy was disciplined ( one of the 300 ) and the tax payers pay a huge sum in lawsuits for wrongful convictions. You are only worried about those innocent Deputies suing the County. I guess the 14th Amendment is meant to only protect LA County Deputies who are fired for Cause and not to the hundreds of people who get fired throughout the country either in the public or private sector. Give me a damn break !!

    Look at the Mandoyan case – How many times are you guys trying to beat a dead horse.

    CASE CLOSED.

    • Perjury is a crime, regardless of who does it. That was something the McDonnell administration thought was optional and excusable if it furthered political needs. Innocent people profess their innocence to the world in word and deed. The guilty slink away into obscurity.

  • CF, shit show by 2 @lasd and all the other folks who hate law enforcement, why don’t you either start a petition you either petition to abolish all forms of law enforcement (police, sheriff, dog catcher, public health, game wardens, ABC, ATF, ICE, US Customs, Secret Service, Coroner, Public Health, US Marshalls, etc.) or move to a country like Mexico or Afghanistan where there is basically no enforcement of the law.

    Good luck in your quest to return to the barbarism and lawlessness humanity evolved away from in their pursuit for a civilized society.

  • Healthy Skeptic – Keep Dreaming – Did you see your boy Mandoyan wants a judge to force Villanueva to conduct a new investigation into the domestic violence allegations against him, and to reinstate him aka – its part of what Villanueva and his spouse have concocted. I wonder whether a judge in Mexico or Afghanistan is going to order his puppet master Villanueva to give him his job back.

    Let me quote Mandoyans attorney Greg Smith saying ” that when he learned of the new internal report, dated Oct. 1, he submitted a records request to the Sheriff’s Department and within five days received 615 pages of material, including the report and attached exhibits with some redactions”.

    Interesting how the Sheriff’s Department releases materials so quickly hum !!!!

    • And 1 – I bet it did not include the weekend. But again their boy is special. Who knows what dirt he has on the Villanueva’s.

  • And 1 – I bet it did. Villanueva likes to be the absolute center of attention, dispensing favors and not able to delegate power. I bet everyone around him is either a lackey who does his bidding or a high ranking sucker trying to coax out his attention.

  • I don’t know Mondoyan, I wasn’t there, I don’t know the case other than what been put out there. However I do know there are lots of other deputies out there whose cases should be getting attention.

  • So this what hit abc 7 this evening.

    abc7 investigations
    Lawsuit over fired LA Sheriff’s deputy costing county taxpayers millions in attorney fees

    • Ha ha ha, wait till the others file lawsuits as well. I know several deputies fighting civil service right now, that will probably be in court soon with suits.

      SMH

    • “So this is what hit abc7 this evening….”

      The link, for all to see:

      https://abc7.com/lawsuit-over-fired-la-deputy-costs-millions-of-tax-dollars/5747763/

      A couple of interesting points:

      1. The going rate for legal fees in L.A. County is $495/hour. If a law firm thinks a case is winnable it may take the case on a contingency basis, meaning the client doesn’t pay anything unless the case is won.

      AV’s law firm is charging $1120/hour.

      2. Deep down into the story is this piece of information: “…Guidelines under McDonnell meant termination was mandatory for false statements…Villanueva rescinded them when he took office.”

      • Let’s call that a false statement in of itself. McDonnell lost at ERCOM to ALADS when he was challenged for unilaterally changing the underlines for discipline. Villanueva is adopting the findings as required and doing the meet and confer process with the unions in order to generate an updated guidelines. Until then the 2012 rules are in effect.

        In other words the one term sheriff didn’t know how to do his job the right way. Please try to sell it as some sort of negative on our sheriff, but acts don’t help you.

          • Negative, meet and confer is required BEFORE the sheriff changes the approved guidelines for discipline. The move was declared illegal by ERCOM, so the new sheriff is now fixing the mistake of the previous one, which cost many deputies their career. The top penalty for false statements has always been discharge, that hasn’t changed and probably never will.

  • With respect to lawsuits…. citizens, inmates and the like continuously file lawsuits, the county puts forth a weak, token defense and then settles. When it comes to LA county rank and file employee suing, they pull out all stops, play dirty and actually fight for “the citizen taxpayers of LA county”.

  • Why does Villanueva have to Meet & confer with the unions. Deputies work for the County of LA. Is it because the Unions paid for his election, and bought him the seat ?

    ALADS and it’s members did not like McDonnell because he disciplined Deputies who crossed the line. California is an AT WILL employment state. We know that ALADS thinks otherwise. So yes they go through their due process BS. If Deputies want to sue the County let them. Looks like the defenders of Deputies do not care when TAX PAYERS pay 49 million in lawsuits when deputies beat the shit out of people.

    So if the deputies want to sue let them sue. But there should be no excuse to be disciplined and possibly terminated. The whole thing about lives of deputies being destroyed when they were terminated under McDonnell is a farce. Do you think they should not have been terminated when they beat the shit out the inmate who was cuffed at Men’s Central and then falsified reports? I don’t think so.

    Again Villanueva probably thinks the deputies should be given a 2 week stay at the Hilton for their heinous actions.

    • @ shit show: I have sat back and given Villanueva a year to see his “Master Plan.” All I can say is. He is an Idiot. Nothing more needs to be said except God help the LASD.

      • I think you two should get a room. Shit show, your name says it all. You can’t terminate employees without due process, period. California is not an “at will” state or right to work state, or whatever you want to call it. Employees and employers agree through collective bargaining to follow the rule of law. I have yet to see anyone endorse deputies keeping their job after breaking the law, so not sure where you get that. Villanueva has already fired 28 deputies for cause, and he was smart enough to not hide exculpatory evidence or place a gag order on his executives like McNumbnuts did.

        Moving forward, they live streamed Villanueva’s end of year presser yesterday. Part 1 crimes down 7%, homicides down 15%, burglaries down 15 across the areas the LASD polices. Hiring up 65% in one year, something the previous three sheriffs couldn’t figure out. Bodycams coming this summer, signed sealed and funded by the board on Tuesday, a full year after the sheriff came up with a real plan to implement them and the board dragged their feet.

        McDonnell did one townhall in four years, Villanueva did 27 in his first year in office. He is holding deputies accountable the right way, with ethical leadership, placing service before ambition. The BOS is now stuck with the grim reality they burned an innocent man at the stake, and now they are spending millions of taxpayer dollars trying to conceal their dishonesty.

        The LASD is in good hands. The Sheila/ACLU/LibertyHill/BLM/LATimes crowd can whine all they want, voters and employees care about public safety and a healthy work environment. Villanueva has delivered both to the dismay of naysayers like you.

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