SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Extraordinary use of electricity has long been a telltale sign of illegal grow houses producing thousands of marijuana plants hidden in seemingly ordinary homes.
But a lawsuit filed by a data privacy watchdog says a Northern California utility went too far by racially profiling Asian communities as it routinely fed customers’ power use information to police without requiring a warrant or any suspicion of wrongdoing, in violation of state laws.
The data disclosure deliberately targeted Asian Americans, with resulting disproportionate penalties against those of Asian descent, the suit says.
The suit illustrates a flashpoint in law enforcement’s efforts to combat illicit drugs.
In 2018, federal and state law enforcement agents seized about 100 Northern California houses that they alleged were bought with money wired to the United States by a Chinese-based crime organization, one of many such actions against alleged perpetrators of Asian descent.
Earlier this year Asian Americans filed at least two lawsuits against Siskiyou County’s sheriff alleging racial bias particularly against the Hmong community in his department’s effort to combat widespread illegal marijuana cultivation.
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District scoured entire ZIP codes worth of power usage information for the Sacramento Police Department but left out homes in a predominantly white neighborhood, says the lawsuit. And a police analyst removed non-Asian names from a list provided by the utility, forwarding only Asian-sounding names for more investigation, the suit claims. [Read More @ AP News]
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