My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

Posts Tagged ‘driving’

Shocking story from Wisconsin: Census worker accuses police of profiling and harassing him while doing his job

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

H/t to Stephanie Jones and The Journal Times for the following scoop. I really could not believe my eyes when I read this story:

RACINE – A U.S. Census Bureau worker has accused Racine police of harassing him while he was working last week and said he has filed a complaint.

Alexander Avila, 21, of Racine, was out last Friday knocking on doors for the census when police in an undercover car stopped him to ask what he was doing, he said. They then started harassing him about his brother who has warrants out for his arrest, he said. They ended up giving him three tickets for traffic violations, which he said were not justified.

I felt scared, intimidated, threatened and racially profiled,” said the written complaint that Avila said he filed Monday with the police department.

Racine Police Chief Kurt Wahlen said his department will be fully investigating the complaint.

But Wahlen said, “We have a right to ask about his brother.”

His brother, Steve Avila II, has nine warrants out for his arrest for traffic violations, Wahlen said.

Avila said once he told police he didn’t know anything about his brother they should have let him continue with his job.

I was treated unfairly,” he said to The Journal Times Monday.

Representatives from the U.S. Census Bureau confirmed Alexander Avila works for the Census and Muriel Jackson, spokeswoman for the bureau, said “we will look into this.”

Avila’s grandmother, Maria Morales, coordinator for Voces de la Frontera in Racine, reported the incident to the Journal Times and Avila confirmed it. Both are U.S. citizens, they said.

Voces de la Frontera is a Wisconsin nonprofit that works to help low-wage and immigrant workers.

Morales has been involved with events to address racial profiling and police harassment and she couldn’t believe now it happened to her grandson.

Police stopped Avila when he started on his route on the 1100 block of Erie Street, he said.

When police stopped him they asked him what he was doing and he told them he was working going door to door trying to collect information for the 2010 Census and showed them his identification, he said. They then questioned the validity of his identification and then when they saw his name they started asking about his brother. He told them he did not know where his brother is and does not talk to him. But one of the officers accused him of lying , Avila said . Then the officer told him that he had seen him driving and said he failed to signal when he turned at State Street, Avila added. They also told him he was driving suspiciously, Avila said in his complaint. He told officers he has a binder full of addresses for people he has to contact and he said he was having trouble finding some of the addresses.

Then police accused him of reading the binder while he was driving, but he said he was not reading while he was driving.

I knew the address and street numbers but … I just had a difficult time finding them,” he said in the complaint.

He ended up receiving three tickets for failure to signal, inattentive driving and obstruction of vision because he had two small necklaces hanging from his rearview mirror, he said.

He said he filed the complaint because he was treated unfairly and didn’t want it to go unreported.

I just want them to know they cannot go around and harass someone for no reason,” Avila said. “I don’t want to be afraid.”

Notes on a Scandal Part 1: The Curious Case of Antonio Sanchez…

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Earlier this week, we received a tip from an anonymous Census Bureau employee in Westchester, New York. The employee informed us that on May 1 at 8:59am, he/she and dozens of his/her fellow field workers received a text message sent to their HHCs (handheld computers) that started with the line, “Please remember to drive safely…” and ended on “with great sadness we regret to inform you that two enumerators have been killed in fatal car accidents.”

Now, this text message is problematic on many levels. First, after searching through thousands of news articles, we have been unable to uncover any information about Census Bureau employees perishing in recent accidents. When we inquired with the Census Bureau, they also said that they were unaware of any accidents. If there were accidents, why haven’t they been reported? And if there have not been accidents, why are Census Bureau employees using scare tactics and lying to field workers?

MyTwoCensus successfully contacted the person who sent out the text message in question,  Antonio Sanchez, who serves as an Assistant Manager of Technology in the Westchester County  office of the Census Bureau.  However, since Census Bureau employees are not permitted to speak to the media (can you say “violation of the first amendment?”) Sanchez told us that he couldn’t discuss anything and that we should call Washington if we had any questions…

So that’s just what we did, and we’re waiting to hear back from Census Bureau HQ Washington on this issue…

Presumably, as a technology expert, Sanchez was directed by a superior to send out this message, so we don’t blame him for disseminating the information. However, until we get to the bottom of this most peculiar and disturbing incident, our investigation is still wide open.