Police officials in the City of Barstow, California are standing by the officer who used incredible force against a pregnant woman.
The woman, Charlena Michelle Cooks, is 8 months pregnant. But none of that mattered to officers who slammed her to the ground when she refused to show them identification.
Even though the charges were later dismissed, Barstow police are saying that the officers did everything right.
The police involved had body cameras on during the incident. The video footage from that encounter was obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California (ACLU SoCal).
In that video, we can see an officer responding to two women in a traffic dispute. One of those women was Charlena Michelle Cooks. She is 8 months pregnant and African American. Some are suggesting that racism was a factor in the police response, as the other unidentified woman was Caucasian.
The Caucasian woman says Cooks was acting “all crazy.”
But the officer admits that “I don’t see a crime that has been committed.”
Then he heads over to talk to Cooks…
The very pregnant Cooks tells the officer that this was all just a disagreement about the way she was driving in the parking lot.
She explained that the woman was scaring her second grade daughter who was with her in the vehicle.
“She called the police for whatever reason, I don’t know,” Cooks explained. “Should I feel threatened by her because she’s white? Because she’s white and she’s making threats to me?”
That set the cop off. He demanded identification the second Cooks brought up race.
“I actually do have the right to ask you for your name,” the officer insisted.
“Let me make sure,” Cooks replies. She then got on the phone to verify this claim with someone.
In less than 20 seconds from then, the officer and his partner take Cooks down with a painful wrist lock and slam her to the ground belly first.
“Why are you resisting?” the officer said, in the manner they seem to be trained to parrot in order to cover their backs when on camera.
“Please! I’m pregnant!” Cooks begged. “Please, stop this!”
It turns out that Cooks was right, she had no obligation to identify herself since no crime had been committed, even by the officer’s own admission.
ACLU SoCal staff attorney Adrienna Wong said that “it would be a wrongful arrest, but it would be an arrest. Even if an officer is conducting an investigation, in California, unlike some other states, he can’t just require a person to provide ID for no reason.”
“Officers in California should not be using the obstruction law, Penal Code 148, to arrest someone for failing to provide ID, when they can’t find any other reason to arrest them,” Wong continued.
ACLU SoCal staff attorney Jessica Price believes that racism was a factor. She notes that the Caucasian woman was treated in a very different way right from the start.
“Imagine getting wrestled to the ground and handcuffed in front of your child’s elementary school,” Price said. “Imagine interacting with other parents afterwards. Imagine what kids who saw the incident tell your child. And if you think the whole incident happened because of your race, how does that impact your view of police?”
Cooks was charged with resisting arrest for refusing to show ID (which is not a crime). Those charges were dropped.
Still, the city is saying the officers did nothing wrong.
“The Barstow Police Department continues to be proactive in training its officers to assess and handle interactions with emotionally charged individuals while conducting an investigation, for the protection of everyone involved,” the official statement on this incident says.
“This incident was in no way racially motivated, as implied by the ACLU,” it continued. “Barstow is a racially diverse community, as is our Police Department, and we affirm our Police Department’s commitment to protect and serve all of our residents.”
Cooks told the Desert Dispatch that she’s “still trying to process everything and get in a good state of mind. I’m in a very fearful state of mind. Barstow is so small and I used to be comfortable living here. Not anymore. I really felt like after all that happened I had some of my everyday freedoms taken from me.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been that terrified in my life,” Cooks added. “I never saw that coming. I told him I was pregnant so he could proceed with caution. That didn’t happen and the first thing I thought was I didn’t want to fall to the ground. I felt the pressure on my stomach from falling and I was calling for help. But those guys are supposed to help me. But who is supposed to help me when they are attacking me?”
Watch the video of the arrest in the footage below
(Article by M. David)