Charges of racial profiling in Lee County

Charges of racial profiling in Lee County

By Liza Fernandez. CREATED Oct 31, 2011

LEE COUNTY - Strong charges coming out of one Southwest Florida community. People in East Fort Myers neighborhood of Tice claim the Lee Sheriff’s Office is racially profiling people on Ortiz Avenue.

“They’re looking for the people who don't have a license, and they figure the people who go there they don't have license,” says activist Reverend Dr. Israel Suarez. He’s been getting a lot of complaints from the predominantly Hispanic community he serves.  

“The majority of people who talk to me that situation say it's discrimination because we are Latino,” Suarez explains.   

He and others says Lee County Sheriff's deputies are regularly stationed across from the flea market on Ortiz Avenue - a big destination for this immigrant community.  

Jose Antonio Garcia works at the flea market and agrees... a big police presence is intimidating, in fact both he and the owner of the flea market say business is half what is used to be.  

So 4 In Your Corner took those concerns to Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott.

Liza Fernandez "I have talked to people out there who say your enforcement out there may be borderline discrimination maybe racial profiling..."  

Sheriff Scott: “And what is that based on? …I mean the numbers don't support it. That is what I'm telling you, the number of traffic stops and tickets written don't support that.” 

The sheriff's office's numbers show of the county's 31 law enforcement zones, this East Fort Myers track ranks fifth for the number of traffic stops.  

Sheriff Scott: “We go out and enforce the law evenly across the board without regard for race.”

Liza Fernandez: “So you don't target areas?

Sheriff Scott: “No, absolutely not.”

Liza Fernandez: “So, it's random?”

Sheriff Scott: “It's random.”  

Sheriff Scott says he has met with the Hispanic community in hopes of setting the record straight. 

He also plans to write an editorial directly addressing those concerns.