Monday, July 29, 2002
Passenger, Ex-LAPD Chief Testify in Racial Profiling Suit
By a MetNews Staff Writer
One of three African Americans ordered from their cars at gunpoint by LAPD officers three years ago told a federal jury Friday that he was afraid officers would hurt him and his companions.
U.S. government employee Wayne Person, 50, testified that an officer about 20 years his junior called him “boy” and referred to himself as “the boss.”
Person said he believed he had to watch what he did and said during the “high-risk, prone-out” stop near Marina del Rey because “I was afraid that I probably would have gotten beaten down.”
The testimony came on the fourth day of trial in a civil rights suit brought by Person; his wife, Virginia judge Alotha C. Willis; and his friend, teacher Sheryl Crayton against the LAPD.
The case is being heard in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder of the Central District of California.
The three plaintiffs claim officers ran the license plates on Crayton’s car through a check only because the driver and two passengers are black.
The check showed that the plates did not belong to the car, but it turned out that the Department of Motor Vehicles was at fault in assigning and recording the plate number.
In earlier testimony, plaintiff’s attorney Stephen Yagman tried to pin down former Police Chief Bernard Parks on whether it was against LAPD policy to “run a plate” solely because of the race of a car’s occupants.
The question turned on whether Parks considered running a plate an “enforcement action” and therefore banned as part of a prohibition on racial profiling.
Parks repeatedly answered the questions by saying that each situation must be judged separately. But on redirect, responding to a question as to whether running a plate based on nothing but the race of the car occupants would be deemed racial profiling, Parks responded:
“In my judgment, that would be racial profiling, yes.”
The jury has heard testimony from a number of LAPD officers involved in the July 3, 1999 stop that raised public outcry after it was learned that one of the car’s occupants was Willis, a family court judge appointed by the Virginia legislature.
That incident was one of several that led federal officials to seek a consent decree for oversight of the LAPD.
Person testified that he and his companions were handcuffed and made to lie on hot asphalt while the officers checked the license plate.
He said that after one officer patted him down, another approached him and asked a colleague whether he already had been patted down. Person said he replied that he had been.
He said an officer responded, “Shut up boy, don’t talk. I’m the boss here. You talk when I tell you to.”
Asked how he felt after that, Person told testified:
“I’m a grown man. I’m nobody’s boy. I think it’s a slur.”
Assistant City Attorney Don Vincent told the jury on the first day of trial that officers saw the car make an illegal turn and only then ran the plate and learned the car could have been stolen. Their only choice at that point, he said, was to do the high-risk stop.
Testimony is expected to continue through next week.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company