Another Alleged Racial Profiling Incident in Davis

While most of us were enjoying our Christmas holiday, David Johnson was pulled over by the Davis police department yet again. It was the second time in two months and over 10 times in the last two years alone.

He was driving his vehicle south bound on Poleline Road towards Safeway when he saw an officer driving north bound, the officer spotted his vehicle, made a u-turn, and eventually pulled over Johnson. The reason given for the traffic stop was a loud muffler. Johnson received a fix-it ticket and was allowed to go about his way.

Did Mr. Johnson have a loud muffler? Yes he did.

Was it likely that a police officer with his window rolled up several car lengths away could hear it? No it wasn’t.

The video clip that you are about to watch focuses on a specific portion of the incident. Mr. Johnson asked for the Sergeant on duty to come talk to him. Johnson very asks about two very important factors.

First, his previous ticket was an obstructed rear license plate. Johnson had been pulled over by Officer Beasley in this incident. However, the CHP had signed off on the license plate being legal. Johnson asks the Sergeant in this incident if his license plate was obstructed. The Sergeant explains that he wasn’t there at the time and didn’t see the what officer saw and that moreover, some officers specialize in different areas of the law than other officers.

The Sergeant never did answer Mr. Johnson’s question to whether or not he thought the license plate is obstructed.

The second and perhaps most telling part of the exchange had to do with the current vehicle violation—the loud muffler. Again, the Sergeant refuses to answer the question about whether the noise was audible through a closed window at distance. But more importantly, another vehicle drives by and they have a loud muffler as well. When Johnson asks him, the Sergeant explains that it would not be “feasible” be to pull over every car with a loud muffler and asked rhetorically if Johnson realized how few officers are on duty–four he states under his breath.

This of course begs the question—with limited resources, why is a police officer pulling over a motorist for a non-moving violation?

This gets into the heart of the charge of racial profiling. As I have become more and more familiar with these types of incidents a very clear picture is emerging. What is happening is basically a “phishing” exercise.

A police officer spots a vehicle that does not appear to belong. It may be an older vehicle in poor condition. It possibly may be the race of the driver. The more I see it is probably the vehicle more than the driver, although I’ve heard of wealthy black people pulled over on such stops.

Regardless, the police officer once identifying the vehicle, then needs a reason or pretense to stop the vehicle. Two months ago it was an obstructed license plate (and let me tell you, there was no obstruction) and on December 26, 2006 it was a loud muffler (and he did indeed have a loud muffler). Often these kind of stops they pull them over for something that did not happen and then never even write a ticket.

What they are then looking for is an outstanding warrant, drugs, weapons, or something big. So they use the traffic stop as a pretense to see if this person is a criminal and once they determine that the person is not a criminal, they treat them well and let them go.

This is a source of great frustration for members of the minority community and Mr. Johnson in particular. Unfortunately, while this video will be turned over to the Ombudsman, there is nothing on this that is a smoking gun. So all this becomes is more background information. The leadership in this city and the police department need to be proactive and change the way the department searches for criminals. Until that happens, these incidents will continue to occur and more and more people will be frustrated.

—Doug Paul Davis reporting

Author

  • David Greenwald

    Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

Categories:

Civil Rights

56 comments

  1. Your description of the way that these “profiling” stops are now being made demonstrates that there is an increased awareness of accountability by the Davis police. This can be taken as a partial victory for the campaign for police oversight that resulted in Mr. Aaronson’s hiring. Continual independant oversight and keeping these incidents in the spotlight of public scrutiny can be effective in at least keeping these practices in check. Davis has taken a significant step forward in this regard.. an enduring legacy of our recently fired HRC.

  2. Your description of the way that these “profiling” stops are now being made demonstrates that there is an increased awareness of accountability by the Davis police. This can be taken as a partial victory for the campaign for police oversight that resulted in Mr. Aaronson’s hiring. Continual independant oversight and keeping these incidents in the spotlight of public scrutiny can be effective in at least keeping these practices in check. Davis has taken a significant step forward in this regard.. an enduring legacy of our recently fired HRC.

  3. Your description of the way that these “profiling” stops are now being made demonstrates that there is an increased awareness of accountability by the Davis police. This can be taken as a partial victory for the campaign for police oversight that resulted in Mr. Aaronson’s hiring. Continual independant oversight and keeping these incidents in the spotlight of public scrutiny can be effective in at least keeping these practices in check. Davis has taken a significant step forward in this regard.. an enduring legacy of our recently fired HRC.

  4. Your description of the way that these “profiling” stops are now being made demonstrates that there is an increased awareness of accountability by the Davis police. This can be taken as a partial victory for the campaign for police oversight that resulted in Mr. Aaronson’s hiring. Continual independant oversight and keeping these incidents in the spotlight of public scrutiny can be effective in at least keeping these practices in check. Davis has taken a significant step forward in this regard.. an enduring legacy of our recently fired HRC.

  5. It certainly appears the DPD is picking on this guy.

    Mr. Johnson should have been given a compliment concerning the reliability of his video equipment – it seems to work every time.SAH

  6. It certainly appears the DPD is picking on this guy.

    Mr. Johnson should have been given a compliment concerning the reliability of his video equipment – it seems to work every time.SAH

  7. It certainly appears the DPD is picking on this guy.

    Mr. Johnson should have been given a compliment concerning the reliability of his video equipment – it seems to work every time.SAH

  8. It certainly appears the DPD is picking on this guy.

    Mr. Johnson should have been given a compliment concerning the reliability of his video equipment – it seems to work every time.SAH

  9. The guy who pulled him over was a newly hired police officer, he doesn’t know David Johnson. So obviously he is not intentionally picking on David Johnson. Which leads to the next question: why does this guy keep getting pulled over and how many other guys are experiencing the same thing?

  10. The guy who pulled him over was a newly hired police officer, he doesn’t know David Johnson. So obviously he is not intentionally picking on David Johnson. Which leads to the next question: why does this guy keep getting pulled over and how many other guys are experiencing the same thing?

  11. The guy who pulled him over was a newly hired police officer, he doesn’t know David Johnson. So obviously he is not intentionally picking on David Johnson. Which leads to the next question: why does this guy keep getting pulled over and how many other guys are experiencing the same thing?

  12. The guy who pulled him over was a newly hired police officer, he doesn’t know David Johnson. So obviously he is not intentionally picking on David Johnson. Which leads to the next question: why does this guy keep getting pulled over and how many other guys are experiencing the same thing?

  13. Doug, I think that the answer to your question relates to hiring practices

    I suspect that the DPD is hiring likeminded cops to make sure that racial profiling practices such as this are perpetuated

    and, of course, there is also a class element as well, the lower orders must be kept under careful surveillance to make sure that the upper middle class remains comfortable

    –Richard Estes

  14. Doug, I think that the answer to your question relates to hiring practices

    I suspect that the DPD is hiring likeminded cops to make sure that racial profiling practices such as this are perpetuated

    and, of course, there is also a class element as well, the lower orders must be kept under careful surveillance to make sure that the upper middle class remains comfortable

    –Richard Estes

  15. Doug, I think that the answer to your question relates to hiring practices

    I suspect that the DPD is hiring likeminded cops to make sure that racial profiling practices such as this are perpetuated

    and, of course, there is also a class element as well, the lower orders must be kept under careful surveillance to make sure that the upper middle class remains comfortable

    –Richard Estes

  16. Doug, I think that the answer to your question relates to hiring practices

    I suspect that the DPD is hiring likeminded cops to make sure that racial profiling practices such as this are perpetuated

    and, of course, there is also a class element as well, the lower orders must be kept under careful surveillance to make sure that the upper middle class remains comfortable

    –Richard Estes

  17. Richard:

    I don’t disagree on the hiring practices, but I also think there is an incentive structure issue here. Think about it: if you pull over a guy for a loud muffler and he turns out to be a wanted criminal, then you get rewarded. So who is more likely to be the wanted criminal?

  18. Richard:

    I don’t disagree on the hiring practices, but I also think there is an incentive structure issue here. Think about it: if you pull over a guy for a loud muffler and he turns out to be a wanted criminal, then you get rewarded. So who is more likely to be the wanted criminal?

  19. Richard:

    I don’t disagree on the hiring practices, but I also think there is an incentive structure issue here. Think about it: if you pull over a guy for a loud muffler and he turns out to be a wanted criminal, then you get rewarded. So who is more likely to be the wanted criminal?

  20. Richard:

    I don’t disagree on the hiring practices, but I also think there is an incentive structure issue here. Think about it: if you pull over a guy for a loud muffler and he turns out to be a wanted criminal, then you get rewarded. So who is more likely to be the wanted criminal?

  21. I think I read Mr. Johnson drives around in a late 90’s Ford Ranger. I do not know much about the vehicle other than the fact it probably has a bad muffler and it has a video camera. There are many late 90’s Ford Rangers – that was the best selling truck in the late 90’s. Assuming the vehicle is in reasonably good shape it is hard to imagine the type of vehicle triggered the DPD action. I wonder if the only thing differentiating this Ranger from other Davis Rangers was the appearance of the driver.

  22. I think I read Mr. Johnson drives around in a late 90’s Ford Ranger. I do not know much about the vehicle other than the fact it probably has a bad muffler and it has a video camera. There are many late 90’s Ford Rangers – that was the best selling truck in the late 90’s. Assuming the vehicle is in reasonably good shape it is hard to imagine the type of vehicle triggered the DPD action. I wonder if the only thing differentiating this Ranger from other Davis Rangers was the appearance of the driver.

  23. I think I read Mr. Johnson drives around in a late 90’s Ford Ranger. I do not know much about the vehicle other than the fact it probably has a bad muffler and it has a video camera. There are many late 90’s Ford Rangers – that was the best selling truck in the late 90’s. Assuming the vehicle is in reasonably good shape it is hard to imagine the type of vehicle triggered the DPD action. I wonder if the only thing differentiating this Ranger from other Davis Rangers was the appearance of the driver.

  24. I think I read Mr. Johnson drives around in a late 90’s Ford Ranger. I do not know much about the vehicle other than the fact it probably has a bad muffler and it has a video camera. There are many late 90’s Ford Rangers – that was the best selling truck in the late 90’s. Assuming the vehicle is in reasonably good shape it is hard to imagine the type of vehicle triggered the DPD action. I wonder if the only thing differentiating this Ranger from other Davis Rangers was the appearance of the driver.

  25. There is no proof that this was an instance of racial profiling. Clearly the author of this blog is convinced that it was, but just because he so rabidly believes his own opinion does not make it fact.

    While the title at the top of this page correctly includes the word “alleged”, all links to it elsewhere on the site clearly state the author’s opinion as a factual representation of what occured.

    The truth is all law enforcement engages in profiling as a primary method of policing. Surely one can not deny that there may have been a legitimate reason to pull this vehicle over, including the reason stated by police.

  26. There is no proof that this was an instance of racial profiling. Clearly the author of this blog is convinced that it was, but just because he so rabidly believes his own opinion does not make it fact.

    While the title at the top of this page correctly includes the word “alleged”, all links to it elsewhere on the site clearly state the author’s opinion as a factual representation of what occured.

    The truth is all law enforcement engages in profiling as a primary method of policing. Surely one can not deny that there may have been a legitimate reason to pull this vehicle over, including the reason stated by police.

  27. There is no proof that this was an instance of racial profiling. Clearly the author of this blog is convinced that it was, but just because he so rabidly believes his own opinion does not make it fact.

    While the title at the top of this page correctly includes the word “alleged”, all links to it elsewhere on the site clearly state the author’s opinion as a factual representation of what occured.

    The truth is all law enforcement engages in profiling as a primary method of policing. Surely one can not deny that there may have been a legitimate reason to pull this vehicle over, including the reason stated by police.

  28. There is no proof that this was an instance of racial profiling. Clearly the author of this blog is convinced that it was, but just because he so rabidly believes his own opinion does not make it fact.

    While the title at the top of this page correctly includes the word “alleged”, all links to it elsewhere on the site clearly state the author’s opinion as a factual representation of what occured.

    The truth is all law enforcement engages in profiling as a primary method of policing. Surely one can not deny that there may have been a legitimate reason to pull this vehicle over, including the reason stated by police.

  29. There is no proof that he was racially profiled. That’s part of the problem.

    The man in question was pulled over for a minor vehicle maintenance issue, but given their locations at the time of the stop, it seems improbable that the officer pulled him over for that reason.

    The traffic stop was suspicious in that it is part of a documented pattern of behavior and a number of individuals close to the situation are concerned about the current practices.

    Unfortunately as you suggest there is no proof and that’s part of the problem in trying to figure out how to stop these types of incidents.

  30. There is no proof that he was racially profiled. That’s part of the problem.

    The man in question was pulled over for a minor vehicle maintenance issue, but given their locations at the time of the stop, it seems improbable that the officer pulled him over for that reason.

    The traffic stop was suspicious in that it is part of a documented pattern of behavior and a number of individuals close to the situation are concerned about the current practices.

    Unfortunately as you suggest there is no proof and that’s part of the problem in trying to figure out how to stop these types of incidents.

  31. There is no proof that he was racially profiled. That’s part of the problem.

    The man in question was pulled over for a minor vehicle maintenance issue, but given their locations at the time of the stop, it seems improbable that the officer pulled him over for that reason.

    The traffic stop was suspicious in that it is part of a documented pattern of behavior and a number of individuals close to the situation are concerned about the current practices.

    Unfortunately as you suggest there is no proof and that’s part of the problem in trying to figure out how to stop these types of incidents.

  32. There is no proof that he was racially profiled. That’s part of the problem.

    The man in question was pulled over for a minor vehicle maintenance issue, but given their locations at the time of the stop, it seems improbable that the officer pulled him over for that reason.

    The traffic stop was suspicious in that it is part of a documented pattern of behavior and a number of individuals close to the situation are concerned about the current practices.

    Unfortunately as you suggest there is no proof and that’s part of the problem in trying to figure out how to stop these types of incidents.

  33. Justice for all. We will not take it. We will love you until you give it to us. We are here to stay.

    The HRC was fired and yet we have found a way to continue the communication.

    Thank you Doug Davis for the hours you put into your work.

    The Revolution will not be televised… it will be Blogged.

  34. Justice for all. We will not take it. We will love you until you give it to us. We are here to stay.

    The HRC was fired and yet we have found a way to continue the communication.

    Thank you Doug Davis for the hours you put into your work.

    The Revolution will not be televised… it will be Blogged.

  35. Justice for all. We will not take it. We will love you until you give it to us. We are here to stay.

    The HRC was fired and yet we have found a way to continue the communication.

    Thank you Doug Davis for the hours you put into your work.

    The Revolution will not be televised… it will be Blogged.

  36. Justice for all. We will not take it. We will love you until you give it to us. We are here to stay.

    The HRC was fired and yet we have found a way to continue the communication.

    Thank you Doug Davis for the hours you put into your work.

    The Revolution will not be televised… it will be Blogged.

  37. Based on my numerous conversations with a lot of people in and around law enforcement, I do not believe I am way off base here. But I’d be glad to discuss it.

  38. Based on my numerous conversations with a lot of people in and around law enforcement, I do not believe I am way off base here. But I’d be glad to discuss it.