LOS ANGELES—A group of Southern California residents opposed to the way checkpoints were being conducted in Latino neighborhoods have sued Pomona police officers, accusing them of intimidation.

The plaintiffs include more than 50 people who attended an August 2008 community meeting to discuss the checkpoints, which some residents say targeted Latinos.

They say police officers in plainclothes came to the meeting at a local religious center and threatened and intimidated participants.

The lawsuit, filed last week in federal court in Los Angeles, accuses the officers of interfering with their rights to free speech, assembly and religion at that meeting.

"We expect the police to respect the Constitution of the United States," Angela Sanbrano, one of the plaintiffs and a member of a coalition organizing opposition to the checkpoints, said Tuesday.

Police in the city east of Los Angeles have said the checkpoints were set up to look for drunk drivers and traffic safety violations.

A four-way checkpoint held in a predominantly Latino neighborhood from afternoon to night in May 2008 angered some residents, who organized protests and the August 2008 community meeting.

Mark Gluba, assistant to the city manager in Pomona, said Tuesday that officials are studying the allegations.



Police seem to be under increasing scrutiny. Rarely does this scrutiny expose misconduct, although those occasions receive intense media coverage.

In the back of every police officer’s mind lies the fear of unfounded allegations of misconduct leveled by suspects who themselves often have criminal records longer than your arm. In an attempt to gain leverage, defense lawyers commonly lodge complaints against police officers. Lawsuits are filed, and insurance companies often settle claims out of court to avoid the expense of litigation. The police end up looking like the bad guys.

When a police officer is charged with a criminal offense, current law allows the prosecution to offer the testimony of people who have lodged complaints of misconduct against an officer. These complaints, depending on their nature, have been thoroughly investigated by the police department or the county prosecutors office itself.

The concern of the law enforcement community comes after a complaint against an officer is found to be without merit and dismissed. Current law allows all unfounded, dismissed and untruthful allegations against an officer to be brought back, re-examined and often admitted into the trial, even though they were previously investigated and dismissed, possibly many years in the past. Of course any complaint against an officer that is found to be true, resulting in the punishment of the Officer, remains admissible; that is just and fair.

When do police get equal rights? Any citizen has the right to complain about an officer’s conduct; that is the American justice system. Past charges that a criminal was found not guilty of are not admissible, so why are past unfounded accusations admissible when prosecuting a police officer? We need equal treatment by the courts and by the justice system. Clearly, the law needs to be changed to protect police officers from this judicial double standard.

A jury acquitted two Richmond police officers yesterday in an alleged cover-up, ending criminal cases against three officers more than 18 months after the assault in a bar that had prompted the charges.

Two officers acquitted in obstruction case