Carlos Gonzalez, a Latino math teacher from East L.A., was driving his new red mustang convertible when police officers pulled him over, handcuffed him, questioned him, and detained him'all without asking for his ID or explaining what he had done. After 25 minutes of personal terror and public humiliation, Gonzalez received a ticket for speeding'the first point during the ordeal at which the officer mentioned a traffic violation. Gonzalez was shaken by the incident and no longer drives his red mustang, which he traded in for a car less likely to attract the attention of police.
Bishop Leon Ralph, an African American former member of the California Assembly, was pulled over in Long Beach. The officer who pulled him over did not recognize the special government plates on his car. She drew her gun on the former legislator and accused him of defacing his plates. He was not accused of any traffic violation and received no ticket. The police officer allowed him to proceed when she learned of the government plates.
Timothy Campbell, an African American realtor and building contractor, was pulled over by police in Los Angeles. He was first accused of stealing his car, next accused of spray-painting anti-police graffiti on a wall nearby, then accused of speeding. When a supervising officer finally arrived at the scene, the speeding ticket was voided. Throughout the stop, which lasted over an hour, police used abusive language and threats.
Campbell complained'and didn't receive a response from the police for over a year.
Rolando Cuervo and a friend were driving in Monterey Park to the 7-11 for coffee. Police saw the two young Latino men and immediately made a u-turn, following them closely for several blocks. Finally, they were pulled over, detained, and subjected to a bizarre interrogation, which included questions about their employment status, their radio equipment, and their sexual orientation. The officer seemed certain that the two college friends were criminals. Rolando has written a letter of complaint and is still awaiting a response.
Gonzalez, Ralph, Campbell, and Cuervo were among a crowd of over two hundred people from throughout the Los Angeles region who gathered at First A.M.E. Church in Los Angeles on Monday, April 17, to describe their experiences of being stopped by law enforcement officers because of their race.
A panel including LAPD Chief Parks, Los Angeles City Council Members Nate Holden, Rita Walters, and Jackie Goldberg, Assemblymember Gloria Romero, and representatives from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and the U.S. Department of Justice, listened for over two hours as town hall attendees told of being stopped because of their skin color. Speakers reported being held at gunpoint, being searched, being detained, and having their property searched against their will for no reason other than their race.
Dominique DiPrima of 92.3 The Beat was MC of the event, and attendees and panelists were asked to sign a letter of support for a racial profiling statistics bill, Senator Kevin Murray's SB 1389, which has twice passed the California Legislature, only to be vetoed first by Governor Wilson, then by Governor Davis.
The event was part of a series of statewide town halls focused on the issue of racial profiling in traffic stops, a statewide organizing effort which will include a lobby day to support SB 1389 on April 27, 2000.
The Los Angeles town hall was sponsored by the ACLU of Southern California, Los Angeles Urban League, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC), Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA) , Central American Resource Center (CARECEN), Los Angeles NAACP, Project Islamic Hope, Black Women's Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, Coalition Against Police Abuse, Pilipino Workers Center, Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, Community Coalition, National Lawyer's Guild, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, Gay and Lesbian Action Alliance, Southern California Criminal Justice Consortium.