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Monday, October 30, 2006

The Ugly Face of Racial Profiling Rises Yet Again in Davis

An area couple, African-American, is on their way home, they were meeting with the police ironically enough about a pending lawsuit filed against the City of Davis and the police for multiple incidents of harassment and racial profiling. Heading home, a patrol car is driving the other direction, spotting them, Officer Jeff Beasley orders his trainee to pull a u-turn and come up behind them, turns on the lights and pulls them over.

There were a couple of disturbing things that occurred during this incident. When pressed for a reason as to why he pulled them over, Beasley (who immediately took control of the situation--recognizing the couple) said they had an obstructed rear license plate. The explanation makes no sense as it is clear that the police car was traveling the opposite direction, spotted their pick up truck and performed a u-turn behind them. There is no way that the officers could have seen an obstructed rear license plate from the front side. Moreover, of course, there is no obstructed rear license plate. When you see the vehicle it is clear as day. It was the most flimsy of excuses to pull over and continue to harass this couple.

The second and most disturbing feature of this incident is that the couple was able to capture it on film. (For a number of reasons unfortunately it cannot be shown on this blog). At one point, they informed the Officer that they were filming this and he responded that the police were filming it as well.

The City of Davis has installed expensive digital recording devices into all its patrol cars. This has been promoted as a means to not only protect the police officers but better serve the public. However, in most incidents of this sort, it seems that the recordings have not worked. Some have suggested that there are legitimate technical issues in getting such a system operational. Others have suggested that this is a little bit too convenient--especially since some of the most revealing footage is apparently not reporting.

When the attorney for this couple requested to view the police vehicle surveillance video, he was told that it didn't record it, despite the fact that Officer Beasley clearly informed the couple that it was being recorded. Moreover, there is a couple of minute period of time when the police officers go into the trunk of the police car and appear to be doing something back there. From the coverage we've seen it is unclear as to what they were doing, but it seemed to be a strange thing to do at that point in time.

All of this will be forwarded to the proper authorities, however, troubling aspects of this remain, particularly the unreliability of the recording equipment and the open question as to whether or not the officer has the ability to manipulate or alter recordings on the scene. These are questions for the new police ombudsman, Robert Aaronson, to address and we hope he is allowed to view and investigate this incident.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting