by Fiona Morgan
Outrageous comments Johnston County Sheriff Steve Bizzell made to News & Observer reporter Kristin Collins are catching up to him now. Sunday's feature, "Tolerance wears thin," quoted Bizzell referring to Latino immigrants as "drunk Mexicans" who "rape, rob and murder," "are trashy" and "[breed] like rabbits."
Now, the ACLU is investigating. The civil rights group today requested public records relating to:
DWI checkpoints, driver’s license checkpoints, arrests, jail bookings, and information pertaining to whether the County has fully complied with North Carolina state law that prohibits racial or ethnic profiling by law enforcement. The ACLU-NCLF and other local civil rights groups allege that Sheriff Bizzell’s statements in the September 7th article constitute direct evidence of racial discrimination and hostility toward Latino citizens and residents of Johnston County.
Bizzell apologized for his comments on Monday, saying they were "inappropriate."
That's clearly not going to satisfy those who were horrified by his racist statements. As recent president of the N.C. Sheriffs' Association, Bizzell has influenced the growing trend toward anti-immigration policing and rhetoric across the state.
On Monday, former U.S. Senate candidate Jim Neal posted to the blog Daily Kos comparing Bizzell to Bull Conner, the Selma, Ala. sheriff who unleashed dogs and fire hoses on protesters during the 1960s. Neal put out an "S.O.S." to liberal bloggers and readers, asking them to pressure state officials to fire Bizzell -- and current political candidates to denounce him.
We'll be curious to see whether Bizzell's name comes up during tonight's gubernatorial debate between Democrat Beverly Perdue and Republican Pat McCrory, both of whom have been beating the anti-immigration drum throughout the campaign.