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Sheriff reacts to NAACP claims

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February 20, 2008

Lakeland - The NAACP has accused the Lanier County sheriff and his deputies of racial profiling and harassment.

But the sheriff says there's no validity to their claims.

Sheriff Nick Norton says he will arrest anyone who commits a crime, regardless of race. And he's opening his door to anyone who wants to complain.

Sheriff Nick Norton says he was blind sided by the NAACP's recent claims that his office has been racially profiling.  "It has never been brought to our attention or brought up about racial profiling."

In fact he says his records will show otherwise.  "We run our numbers and we run almost 50-50 white males, black males and we are actually heavier on white females being arrested then black females," Norton says.

One of the accusations involves the arrest of Joseph Calhoun. They say Calhoun was tasered to head, then brought to the Lowndes County Jail. The NAACP and family claim he never received medical treatment.

But Norton say his incident reports show the after he was tased, Calhoun asked for medical attention. When EMS arrived, he then signed a waiver saying he did not want to go to the hospital.

Records, they say, the community can come and see anytime.  "We have an open door policy here at the sheriff's office. Feel free, anytime, to come up and we'd be happy to sit down with them and answer any questions they have," says Tim Roberts, Investigator with the Lanier County Sheriff's Office.

Norton says it was an invitation even extended to NAACP district coordinator Bernie Fulton. 

But he says Fulton failed to show up for their scheduled meeting Sunday afternoon.  "We could have squashed all of this and he could have had fact rather than rhetoric to present to his congregation," Norton says.

Norton says that invitation is still open and that he'll continue arresting criminals and drug dealers, no matter what color they may be.

The NAACP says they still want the state to investigate the sheriff's office.