Barstow po­lice face law­suit

Woman says of­fi­cers used ex­ces­sive force dur­ing ar­rest while she was preg­nant.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Veron­ica Rocha veron­ica.rocha@la­times.com

A woman who was eight months preg­nant when she was hand­cuffed and slammed to the ground has filed a law­suit against the Barstow Po­lice Depart­ment, al­leg­ing of­fi­cers used ex­ces­sive force when they ar­rested her for re­fus­ing to iden­tify her­self.

Charlena Cooks says that on Jan. 26, she was wrong­fully ar­rested, jailed for 10 to 12 hours and forced to go through bail ex­penses even though charges were ul­ti­mately dis­missed, ac­cord­ing to a law­suit filed in U.S. Dis­trict Court. She is seek­ing dam­ages for emo­tional and men­tal dis­tress.

“There is clearly so many lesser uses of forces to use be­fore lay­ing down your hands,” her at­tor­ney Ca­ree Harper said.

Harper said two Barstow po­lice of­fi­cers pushed Cooks to the ground face first, risk­ing harm to her and her un­born child.

Cooks won­ders whether her daugh­ter, who was born in March, suf­fered in­juries di­rectly re­lated to the ar­rest, her at­tor­ney said. Cooks is also su­ing on be­half of her child.

Cooks’ ar­rest — cap­tured on an of­fi­cer’s body cam­era — drew na­tional at­ten­tion af­ter it raised ques­tions about when po­lice in Cal­i­for­nia can ask for iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and when peo­ple can refuse to show it.

The ACLU of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia re­leased the video on the heels of a $30,000 set­tle­ment in a sep­a­rate case against the city of Barstow in­volv­ing two broth­ers, Jesse and Robert Katz, who were held for re­sist­ing ar­rest af­ter re­fus­ing to iden­tify them­selves.

The U.S. Supreme Court has up­held state laws that crim­i­nal­ize re­fus­ing to show iden­ti­fi­ca­tion to po­lice. But Cal­i­for­nia has no such law.

Harper said Barstow po­lice have a his­tory of us­ing “stop-and-iden­tify” tac­tics, and that Cooks is just one of many vic­tims.

“This civil rights ac­tion is firmly in the public’s in­ter­est and the out­come will af­fect the cit­i­zens of Barstow as well as those who may visit that town,” the law­suit states.

In Cooks’ case, the ACLU al­leges race was also a fac­tor in her ar­rest.

Barstow spokesman An­thony Ri­ley has re­jected the ACLU’s al­le­ga­tion that Cooks, who is black, was tar­geted be­cause of her race.

He has de­fended the of­fi­cers’ ac­tions, say­ing that she “ac­tively re­sisted ar­rest.”

But Harper said her client’s civil rights were vi­o­lated.

“We can’t ig­nore the fact we are see­ing peo­ple of color con­tin­u­ously killed … and beaten up,” she said.

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