A civil rights group has accused authorities in Riverside County of unfairly targeting black-owned barbershops with raids in which officers burst into businesses with guns and bulletproof vests and questioned clients without warrants.
The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday alleges the Moreno Valley Police Department, the Sheriff’s Department and a state inspection board conducted searches under the false pretext that they were part of a health inspection.
“There was no evidence of criminal activity at these locations and no reason that these once-thriving businesses were singled out other than racial profiling,” said Peter Bibring, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which filed the lawsuit. “These raids were a blatant violation of these business owners’ civil rights.”
The lawsuit cites raids from last April in which Moreno Valley police, city code officers and inspectors from the California Board of Barbering and Cosmetology raided five barbershops that were owned and patronized by blacks.
At Fades Unlimited, officers ran criminal warrant checks on barbers and customers, the lawsuit claims. The ACLU said a barber who objected was handcuffed and detained in a police car for 10 minutes.
It was not immediately clear if any arrests or citations resulted from the raids.
Spokesmen for the police and the sheriff’s office—which contracts with the city—refused to comment.
A spokesman with the state barbering board would not comment because he had not seen the lawsuit.
Kevon Gordon, whose Hair Shack barbershop was also raided, said the officers treated his employees and customers like criminals because they were black.
“It was sickening,” Gordon said in a news release from the ALCU. “I have lost good customers and had my reputation called into question in a community where I’ve been working for 20 years. I wouldn’t wish this on anyone.”
The lawsuit asks that the defendants adopt policies to protect against racial profiling and limit the role of law enforcement.