from the unbroken-streak-of-subjugation-continues-into-2022 dept
Sheriff’s deputies in Georgia stopped a bus carrying a mostly Black women’s lacrosse team under the apparent assumption there was marijuana on board, and the players and their coaches were humiliated and angered by the experience.
The Delaware State University team was stopped April 20 in Liberty County on their way home from playing a game at Stetson University in Florida, and bus driver Tim Jones said he was initially told the stop was for a lane violation — but a video taken by one of the players shows a search for drugs, reported USA Today.
It was a pretextual stop, because of course it was. How many traffic stops are truly for their intended purpose? Not many. And this pretext somehow gave the deputies permission to board the bus and search everyone, despite the stated violation being something only the driver should have had to deal with.
Once aboard, the deputies got straight to the real point of the stop — something that’s definitely not going to help them survive the inevitable lawsuit(s). Law of the land — at least since the Supreme Court’s Rodriguez decision — is that a stop can only last as long as its takes to attend to the purpose of the stop. In this case, it was supposedly a lane violation. But these deputies immediately made the stop about something else. And that’s unconstitutional.
“If there is anything in y’all’s luggage, we’re probably gonna find it, okay?” an officer says in the video recorded by player Saniya Craft. “I’m not looking for a little bit of marijuana, but I’m pretty sure you guys’ chaperones are probably going to be disappointed in you if we find any.”
“If there is something in there that’s questionable,” the deputy adds on the video, “please tell me now, because if we find it — guess what? We’re not going to be able to help you.”
Here’s that recording:
This decision to turn a routine traffic stop into an all-hands search for drugs the deputies had no reasonable suspicion to believe they’d find on the bus definitely violates the tenets of the Rodriguez decision. According to a student’s account, this was only the beginning. Luggage contents were tossed, aided and abetted by other deputies who arrived at the scene of the crime, which was [rereads opening paragraphs] an alleged “lane violation.”
The officers instructed Mr. Jones to open the bus trunk, as they proceeded to go through the ladies personal belongings. Everyone was confused as to why they were looking through the luggage, when there was no probable cause. The team members were in shock, as they witnessed the officers rambling through their bags. They brought the K-9 dog out to sniff their luggage. The cops began tossing underwear and other feminine products, in an attempt to locate narcotics.
Every time the students turned their heads, more officers appeared at the scene. The cops kept doubling, as they went from two to six officers. They checked bags for 20 minutes, then explained it was necessary, in case of child trafficking or drugs.
The sheriff’s office capped off this mass of rights violations by lying about it. Here’s what Liberty County (GA) Sheriff William Bowman said about the purported “lane violation” stop when the media began asking questions:
Bowman addressed the issue on Tuesday afternoon, and said that “no personal items on the bus or persons were searched.”
This is a screenshot taken from footage captured by one of the deputies’ own body cameras. That looks like a luggage search to me. Here’s the full recording:
Sheriff William Bowman, who is black, offered no explanation for his statement, which was clearly contradicted by body cam video obtained by the Wilmington News Journal. He had no excuse for saying what he did because his statement to the press made it clear he had reviewed the footage before he decided to lie about it (or simply parrot his deputies’ lies about what had occurred).
He said after speaking with deputies and reviewing video and other aspects of the incident, he does “not believe any racial profiling took place.”
That statement is every bit as stupid as his claim no luggage was searched. It sure looks like racial profiling and Sheriff Bowman’s follow-up doesn’t alter this appearance.
“Before entering the motorcoach, the deputies were not aware that this school was historically Black or aware of the race or the occupants due to the height of the vehicle and tint of the windows,” Bowman said.
Sure, but once they were inside, the deputies could see the racial makeup of the students on the bus, and that appears to have motivated their decision to escalate this from a routine traffic stop to 30+ minutes of continuous rights violations. And they could have made this decision to perform a stop because they knew the driver was black. The windows surrounding the bus driver are clearly untinted.
To pretend this isn’t exactly what it looks like is desperation. The sheriff has already been caught in one lie. He shouldn’t make this worse by pretending this was a good stop that contained no misconduct and does not contain a racial angle.
And, in the end, nothing happened but a bunch of apparent racism. The driver was not cited. No illegal contraband was found. A bunch of students from a historically black college were treated like suspected criminals for no other reason than the deputies could. All the sheriff’s department gets out this abuse of power is the opportunity to be named in a bunch of civil rights lawsuits.