A newly-released police body cam shows officers in Barstow, California, pushing a black pregnant woman to the ground, but allowing a white woman to go free.
The video (below) of the January 26 incident was released last week by the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California (ACLU SoCal).
Police were responding to a traffic/parking issue between an unidentified white woman and Charlena Michelle Cooks, who is black, noted RawStory.com.
The incident happened in the parking lot of the Crestline Elementary School where Cooks had dropped off her second-grade daughter.
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Police first interviewed the white woman, but told her that it did not appear that any crime had been committed. The white woman, believed to be a school employee, was asked by police to point out Cooks.
An officer walked over to get Cooks' side of the story.
At one point, the cop asked Cooks for her name, but she refused to do so and made a phone call to find out if she legally had to identify herself.
She later said that her name was Michelle, but the officer demanded her full name.
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The officer told Cooks that he would give her two minutes on her call, but seconds later took her to the ground with other officers.
Cooks told the officers that she was pregnant, but they forced her down on her belly as she screamed.
After handcuffing Crooks, the officers demanded that she stand up even though she had difficulty doing so because of her pregnancy.
ACLU SoCal states on its website:
A person who is not suspected of a crime has no obligation to identify herself. Even if an officer is conducting an investigation, in California (unlike some other states), he can’t just require a person to provide ID for no reason.
The officer can ask for ID, but the person can say no. Cooks said no, and she was wrongfully charged with resisting a peace officer. With the exceptions above, California law does not require you to provide identification to police. What happened here was wrong, and if the Barstow Police follow the new training, it should not happen again.
Cooks was charged with resisting arrest, but the the City of Barstow could not say exactly why she was being arrested in the first place.
According to CBS Los Angeles, the City of Barstow said in a statement:
The City of Barstow has reviewed the video link regarding Charlena Cook’s arrest. It is apparent that Ms. Cook[s] actively resisted arrest.
The Barstow Police Department continues to be proactive in training its officers to assess and handle interactions with emotionally charged individuals while conducting an investigation, for the protection of everyone involved. This incident was in no way racially motivated, as implied by the ACLU.
Barstow is a racially diverse community as is our Police Department, and we affirm our Police Department’s commitment to protect and serve all of our residents.
However, the white woman was not asked to identify herself.
Even though the city claimed that Cooks "actively resisted arrest" there was no explanation as to why the criminal charge against her was dropped.
Cooks hasn't decided whether or not to file a lawsuit, but told the Desert Dispatch that she was banned from her daughter's school while charged:
I received a letter saying I was a threat to the campus and employees. I was pretty much told my children were welcomed there but I was not. I used to go have breakfast with my daughter on campus but that was taken from me for something that was not my fault.
Cooks isn't sure if she is going to sue the city, but said that she gave birth on March 30: "We don’t exactly know if anything really happened to her during the incident so I’m just watching her development closely."
Sources: RawStory.com, Desert Dispatch, CBS Los Angeles, American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California
Image Credit: YouTube Screenshot