LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has suspended a unit that stopped thousands of innocent Latinos on a freeway to search for drugs.

A spokeswoman tells the Los Angeles Times Friday that the Domestic Highway Enforcement Team was suspended last month and its deputies reassigned while operations are under review.

Newly elected Sheriff Alex Villanueva says he supports the move.

The county’s inspector general is investigating whether the program racially profiled drivers. He’s already told the Civilian Oversight Commission that drivers’ constitutional rights were violated.

The investigation began after a Times report that said Latinos comprised 69 percent of drivers stopped on Interstate 5 under the program between 2012 and 2017. The paper also said Latino drivers had their cars searched at a far higher rate than other racial groups.

“It’s deeply concerning that racial profiling could have been used on Latino drivers,” L.A. County Supervisor Hilda Solis told The Times in a statement in October.

Former County Sheriff Jim McDonnell said in a statement at the time of the initial report that he was proud of the team’s work, which included confiscating 3,500 pounds of drugs and rescuing six victims of human trafficking in more than 9,000 stops.

“As someone who has dedicated my career to protecting the civil rights of all people, I am personally concerned about any allegation of racial and ethnic profiling and take very seriously questions about race and police procedures,” McDonnell said.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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