Commentary: If It Looks Like Discrimination...

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, April 17, 2009

The women, twin sisters, were sightseeing in West Sacramento. They had two toddlers, properly strapped in car seats. When the driver failed to turn on her turn signal when she changed lanes, a West Sacramento police officer attempted to pull her over. When she didn’t respond to his warning light, he sounded his siren.

Confused, she stopped in the middle of the I Street Bridge and started to get out of her car. He told her to get back in the car, and then called for back up. Three more officers arrived. With guns drawn, all four ordered the women out of their car. One officer had an assault rifle. Another had a pistol in one hand and a leashed police dog in the other. They ordered the women to lift their shirts to show they were not armed, then handcuffed them and detained them in the back of separate police cars for about 30 minutes.

No one charged the officers with racial discrimination; it’s a hard allegation to prove.  Nonetheless, race is the obvious subtext here. If these sightseers had been from Sweden instead of Africa, it’s hard to believe they would have been subjected to such outrageous behavior.

Police still insist they did nothing wrong, that they were acting within city policy. If that’s true, West Sacramento urgently needs to change its policy.


Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.