FTP! Police Harrasment and Impunity
Fernando, graduated from Cal State Long Beach in 2009 and studied Creative Writing and Journalism. He is a co-founding member of Dreamers Adrift and co-founding member of the AB 540 group FUEL @ CSULB. He is the Coordinator for the Justice for Immigrants Coalition of Inland Southern California, which is an immigrant-rights coalition in the Inland Empire region of California. He is also a contributing writer to the Huffington Post on the Dream Activist series and serves as Vice President and Board Member for the Pomona Economic Opportunity Center, a day laborer center in Pomona, Ca
I’ve decided to post this today because earlier today I spoke with the Riverside Police Review Commission and they gave the same disrespectful, run around treatment they’ve given me for the last year. It’s been a year since this incident happened. It’s been a year, and I’ve yet to receive any of the requests I’ve made very explicit in my complaint.
The ensuing complaint process has been just as stressful and traumatic as the actual incident filled with systematic oppression by the very police review commission whose sole job is to investigate into misconduct by officers and support the people filing complaints and instead do the opposite and discredit those of us who come forth. More of the ensuing bullshit of filing a complaint against a law enforcement agency to come in Part 2 of this entry.
Like I said it’s been a year and I’ve decided to make some of this public not merely because I want to put Officer Asbury on blast, even though that’s a big part of it. But also to shine a light on the process and the impunity that unfolds right in front of you. If I’m putting Officer Asbury on blast is because as he told me “I’m just doing my job” well guess what I’m gonna do my job too. We should all do this; submit complaints of officers and make sure there’s a complaint in their file. That’s our job as community members and residents; to make sure that law enforcement agencies don’t become filled with impunity and disregard for the public.
Below is the actual complaint narrative I filed with the RPD almost a year ago. The thing is this type of harassment and racial profiling is not the first time that I’ve encountered it at the hands of law enforcement. If I had a dollar for every time this incident has played out in my life, I would have a solid $15 to $20. It’s something that happens too often to men of color; particularly African American and Latino males.
The saddest thing is that I know for a fact that this won’t be the last tine this happens to me. Whether undocumented or not, this shit won’t change.
On August 1, 2013 at 8:30 a.m., I was pulling out of the parking lot of a Fed Ex office at 10051 Magnolia Avenue. As I did, I noticed a RPD patrol car drive by heading southwest on Magnolia. I turned right onto Magnolia and approached the intersection of Magnolia and Hughes Way. At the red light, I noticed the RPD police cruiser, which by this point was about 100 feet ahead of me, make a U –turn and return to the same intersection where I was. As I signaled to make a left onto southbound Hughes Way, I noticed the RPD police cruiser move from a center lane to the far-right lane with the intent to turn onto the same street as me.
Once the traffic light gave me a green left-turn arrow, I turned left and that is when the RPD police cruiser began to follow closely behind me. With the patrol car following me, I continued to drive cautiously while obeying all traffic laws. I turned left onto a residential street, stopped at a stop sign, and then made another a right taking me deep into a residential neighborhood. By this point, I had made the determination that the RPD police cruiser was following me with intent, so I voluntarily pulled over to the side and parked the car. It was at this point that RPD police cruiser turned on its patrol lights.
Two officers stepped out: one approached on my left side, the other on my right. I rolled down the driver’s side window and asked the RPD officer what the problem was. He retorted by saying I had a rosary hanging from my rearview mirror and that my plate light was off and then asked me, “Close your eyes for a second and then open them.” I did what I was told and closed my eyes and when I opened them he asked if I was under the influence of any substances. I told the RPD officer that I wasn’t. He then asked me to step outside my vehicle and to get on my knees facing the curb with my hands behind my head and my ankles crossed behind me. I complied.
There were two officers; one was white male in his late 20s or so, blond, with blue eyes, who I later found out, was named Asbury. The other was a young man, also white male, late teens or so, who I later found out was an Explorer. After I was sitting on the curb for a while, the RPD officer walked around to face me and asked me to present my driver’s license so I told him I was going to reach for my wallet in my back pocket . At this point, Officer Asbury reached for his hip on the side where his gun was located, he stopped me and asked me to stand up from the curb and frisked me. He continued to interrogate me on whether or not I was under the influence of any substances. I again told him no. He continued to press me on it. I told him that if anything I was sleep-deprived and fatigued. He mentioned that my pupils looked abnormally large to which I simply pursed my lips and remained silent unsure how to respond to that.
Officer Asbury did not believe me and continued to interrogate me on it. He took my pulse at one point. He asked if I knew “what the normal rate for a human being was?” I told him I didn’t. After taking my pulse with his fingers on my wrist, he said that the normal rate pulse for a human was 60 per minute. “You know what yours is? 120,” he said.
At that point he asked why I was being so nervous and acting jittery. I told him that the situation that he had created by following me and pulling me aside made me anxious. He didn’t believe me. He said that there were ways for him to find if I was under the influence of any substances by taking me to the police station, which I felt was a direct threat to arrest me. He asked if he and the Explorer could search inside my car. I consented under the threat of arrest that Officer Asbury had instilled in me. He then escorted me to the patrol car and sat me in the back of it.
The Explorer and Asbury went through the inside of my car and the trunk. They did not find anything. Asbury could not find my DL in my wallet, it wasn’t until I was sitting in the back of the patrol car that he came back and told me to find it for him, so I searched inside the wallet and handed it to him. He continued to ask if I was under the influence of any substances, and I again told him no.
After they searched my car, I was allowed to step out of the patrol car and Officer Asbury informed me that the light reflector on my license plate was missing and I should get that fixed. He also caringly, told me “whatever it is that you’re doing, just stop because it’s going to ruin your life,” referring to his perception of my drug use.
Later that day, I spoke to Asbury’s supervisor Sgt. Cliff Mason about filing a complaint. By this point, Mason had already reviewed the video tape of the stop and had spoken to Asbury. After speaking with Asbury regarding the incident, Mason mentioned to me that Asbury said, “If I knew he was going to file a complaint, I would’ve arrested him for sure.”
The officer in question had no good reason to pursue me, stop me, or frisk and interrogate me as I had done nothing to give him any reasonable suspicion that I had committed, was committing, or was about to commit any crime. Throughout this whole episode, I did at no point commit any moving violation. I did not swerve, cross traffic lines, rapidly accelerate or decelerate, or drive in any erratic manner that may have led Officer Asbury to suspect that I was under the influence. While hanging a small medallion/rosary from one’s rear view mirror may technically constitute an infraction of the vehicle code, it was in no way obstructing my view of the roadway, and for the officer to try to use that extremely minor violation as grounds to suspect me of intoxication and interrogate me on that basis amounts to an overstretching and abuse of his authority. Throughout the episode I remained professional and polite, while Officer Asbury was unnecessarily intimidating, up to the point of harassment in his repeated questioning of me.
I am young in my appearance and I drive an older model Toyota, and my skin is brown. If these are the reasons I was profiled, stopped, and harassed, your officers need to be informed that class and age profiling is wrong, racial profiling is illegal, and these are ineffective police practice.
Furthermore, Officer Asbury’s regretting not arresting me demonstrates that he was willing to use his authority in a malicious way—in order to forestall my filing a complaint against him through pressure and coercion. If not an outright civil rights violation, this is, at the very least, a rude and ineffective police practice.
I ask that a neutral individual or agency investigate this complaint. If any violations of law or policy are deemed to have occurred, I ask that disciplinary measures be taken. I further ask to be informed of the result of the investigation and any and all disciplinary measures taken.
Furthermore, pursuant to the California Public Records Act (California Government Code §§ 6250 through 6276.48), I request all records, including compilations, in the possession of the Riverside Police Department and affiliated agencies pertaining to this incident, including, but not limited to:
– Video footage of the stop, detention, and interrogation and any footage relevant to the investigation from the moments prior to and after the stop;
– Audio recordings of the stop, if any;
– Written reports of this incident (or related investigations) from Officer Asbury, the Explorer, supervising or commanding officers;
– Internal communications, including email, text messages, phone calls or any records of phone calls, regarding this incident or the investigation thereof.
In addition, I request records documenting or reporting crime statistics for the area where the stop occurred, in addition to crime statistics for the other areas of the city.
Finally, I request records of the department’s current policy or policies regarding racial profiling, and/or any document or record indicating the specific circumstances permitting or requiring the use of race, ethnicity, or racial information to substantiate reasonable suspicion or probable cause to stop, detain, and/or interrogate suspects or members of the public.
I expect a response to the records request within business ten working days of receipt, and a response to the complaint within a reasonable amount of time as required by law.
– Fernando Romero Orozco