Media Contact

ACLU SoCal Communications & Media Advocacy, 213.977.5252,

March 22, 2017

Please attribute the following statement to Peter Bibring, director of police practices for the ACLU of California, in regards to the wrongful detention of musician and activist Wyclef Jean by Los Angeles Sheriff's Department deputies:

"The detention of internationally known musician and activist Wyclef Jean by Los Angeles Sheriff’s deputies reminds us once again that racial bias in policing continues to be a concern in California.

While searching in the dense and crowded vicinity of the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, deputies relied on a vague description of a suspect – a Black man in an older Toyota or Honda with paper plates – and ignored the ways it didn’t fit Mr. Jean, including that his car had Michigan plates, not paper plates.

This incident isn’t unique. The data we have shows that communities of color, and Black men in particular, are more likely to be stopped, pulled out of cars, frisked and searched, far beyond what is justified by actual criminal activity. These stops are more than just inconveniences. They threaten the dignity of those residents stopped, too often threaten their safety, and undermine already fragile trust in law enforcement.

California has taken strong steps to address racial profiling by passing the Racial and Identity Profiling Act of 2015 (AB 953), which strictly prohibits racial profiling. Beginning in 2018, police must report information on every single stop they make to help identify and address racial disparities.

However, there is still more work to do at the local level to ensure that localities prepare for and comply with this new law to ensure that one day law enforcement officers treat every single Californian with the dignity and respect we all deserve. While incidents like this one highlight the problems with bias in policing, we won’t be able to really understand the issue, let alone fix it, without data on how bias in policing plays out on our streets.

We call on the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department to fully investigate the incident and outline how they plan to implement the Racial and Identity Profiling Act to ensure that incidents like this become a thing of the department’s past."