Delaware State University, a historically black university, says the women’s lacrosse team was racially profiled during traffic stop in Georgia


The team bus was heading north on Interstate 95 in Liberty County on April 20 after a game in Florida when it was stopped “on the pretext of a minor traffic violation”, Delaware State University President Tony Allen said in a statement. Liberty County is on the Georgian coast, south of Savannah.

During the stop, sheriff’s deputies used drug-sniffing dogs to search students’ suitcases, Allen said.

Video taken by players shows “law enforcement officers attempting to intimidate our student-athletes into confessing to possession of drugs and/or drug paraphernalia,” added Allen, noting that nothing illegal was discovered.

Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman said the bus was pulled over for violating a state law that requires a bus or coach to travel in the two rightmost lanes unless the bus or the coach is not preparing to turn left or move to or from a HOV lane, and the driver eventually received a warning.

The stop happened as part of the department’s “trade ban detail,” Bowman, who is black, said Tuesday at a news conference, adding that other commercial vehicles were stopped that day. there, including a bus where “contraband” was found.

A K-9 unit was among the details, and after the Delaware state bus stopped, “an alert was given by the K-9,” which triggered the search, Bowman said.

“We weren’t aware that this shutdown was perceived as racial profiling,” Bowman said. “While I do not believe racial profiling has taken place based on the information currently available to me, I welcome feedback from our community on ways to improve our law enforcement practices while maintaining the law.”

Sophomore lacrosse player Sydney Anderson wrote about the encounter in the Delaware State Newspaper last week.

“Everyone was confused as to why they were looking through luggage, when there was no probable cause,” Anderson wrote.

“Team members were in shock when they saw the officers going through their bags. They brought in the K-9 dog to sniff their luggage. The cops began tossing underwear and other items women, with the aim of locating narcotics,” she said. mentioned.

Deputies spent 20 minutes checking the bags and said they did so “in case of child or drug trafficking”, Anderson said.

The sheriff, however, said, “No personal items on the bus or people were searched.”

“A K-9 sniff outside the vehicle is not a Fourth Amendment search … and requires us to perform a search of the vehicle,” Bowman said Tuesday. “Once on board, deputies informed passengers that the search would be complete. This is the same protocol that should be used regardless of the passenger’s race, gender, age or destination.”

Video shows MPs on bus

A video shared by Delaware State University shows two white deputies standing at the front of the bus and telling passengers they are going to search their luggage.

A deputy can be heard saying, “If there’s anything in your luggage, we’ll probably find it — OK. I’m not looking for some marijuana, but I’m pretty sure you guys ‘chaperones will probably be disappointed if we find any.”

The officer continued, “So if there’s anything in there that’s questionable, please tell me now. Because if we find it, guess what – we can’t help you. .You’re in the state of Georgia; marijuana is still illegal.”

CNN was unable to confirm what happened before filming began or what happened after recording stopped. CNN also asked for additional clips of the incident at the university, and the university’s director of press services, Carlos Holmes, said another video exists but the quality was poor.

The deputies involved were not identified by the sheriff at the press conference.

This is why everyday racial profiling is so dangerous

“Before boarding the coach, the deputy was unaware that this school was historically black or aware of the race of the occupants due to the height of the vehicle and the tinted windows,” Bowman said Tuesday.

“More than anything, we want feedback from the passengers of the Delaware State University lacrosse team on communication approaches that we can simply ignore,” the sheriff said.

CNN reached out to Delaware State University for comment after the Liberty County Sheriff’s press conference.

Allen called the incident a “humiliating process” and said the university is “exploring the options for redress – legal and otherwise – available to our student-athletes, our coaches, and the University.”

“We have no intention of letting this incident or any other incident like it pass. We are ready to go where the evidence leads us. We have the video. We have allies. Perhaps more importantly , we have the courage of our convictions,” he said in the statement.

CNN’s Sharif Paget contributed to this report.


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