The U.S Department of Justice reported Tuesday that it has found evidence "of discriminatory policing against Latinos" by the sheriff's office in Alamance County, North Carolina.

The office, "under the leadership of Sheriff Terry S. Johnson, engages in a pattern or practice of misconduct that violates the Constitution and federal law," according to the findings of a two-year-long investigation.

The probe was begun in June 2010 after a series of complaints by members of the community who said that sheriff's deputies used racial profiling to arrest Hispanic drivers more often than others.

Among the discriminatory practices that the Justice Department found in Alamance County were the setting up of checkpoints in Hispanic communities and a pronounced tendency to detain Latinos for offenses that would normally only warrant issuing a ticket.

In addition, the department found that there was motivation for deputies to arrest Latinos more frequently and foster a culture of prejudice, using anti-Latino epithets, for instance.

"Taken together, these practices undermine ACSO's ability to serve and protect Alamance County's Latino residents and the community at large," the Justice Department said in a statement.

ACSO's conduct "creates distrust between the police and the community and inhibits the reporting of crime and cooperation in criminal investigations," Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez said.

"We hope to resolve the concerns outlined in our findings by working collaboratively with ACSO, but we will not hesitate to take appropriate legal action if ACSO chooses a different course," he said. EFE