The American Civil Liberties Union has released an appalling video of California police confronting a pregnant Black woman.
Mandated body cameras captured officers in Barstow, California, slamming a woman named Charlena Michelle Cooks during a January incident where they were called to her daughter’s school.
Cooks, who was eight months pregnant at the time, was approached by police after speaking with school staff member following a “petty” argument in the parking lot. The staffer said that Cooks had been acting “crazy,” but the officer in the video cold be heard stating that he didn’t “see a crime that has been committed.”
TheRoot.com reports that while the cop didn’t ask for the employee’s name or identification, he did assure her that a police report on the incident would be filed. He then approached Cooks, who told him that the woman had scared her daughter, who was in the second grade.
“She called the police for whatever reason, I don’t know,” Cooks could be heard saying in the video. “Should I feel threatened by her because she’s white? Because she’s white and she’s making threats to me?”
When asked for her name and ID, she refuses to provide them because Cooks argues that she’s not obligated to divulge that information. At first, the officer said he’d give her two minutes to confirm that they are within their rights to demand the identification. However, the cop and one of his fellow officers tackle her to the ground belly-first about a minute later.
Cooks, placed in a wristlock, could then be heard screaming, “Please! I’m pregnant! Please stop this!” She was eventually placed in the police car while authorities went through her things to find her ID, but the altercation left her incredibly shaken.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been that terrified in my life,” Cooks told The Desert Dispatch. “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?”
The mother was charged with resisting arrest; a judge later dismissed the charges, but the Barstow Police Department maintains its position. According to the ACLU, Cooks was within her rights in refusing to identify herself to authorities.
“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,” attorney Adrienna Wong said in a statement. “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.”
Barstow police have insisted that the way the officers handled the situation was not racially motivated, but Cooks said she’s no longer comfortable in the town and that she’s been in “a fearful state of mind” ever since the incident. Thankfully she was able to carry her baby to term, but she is keeping a close eye on her newborn’s development.