With two weeks left before the recommendations by the Police Reform and Racial Justice subcommittees are to be presented to City Council, the Merry-Go-Round wanted to circle back to where it all began: the “Mali Watkins incident.”
It is not our intent to rehash the events leading to the detention and arrest of Mr. Watkins on May 23. Last June the City released bodycam footage from all of the police officers involved in the incident; the videos remain available on YouTube, and our readers can judge for themselves whether the tapes constitute proof that racial bias permeates the Alameda Police Department, thereby justifying the imposition of drastic changes in how policing is done in Alameda.
Rather, we want to focus today on how City officials and others responded right after the incident and how those reactions may have shaped the police-reform process. We’ll also provide an update – to the extent we’ve been able to discover it from the public record – on the status of the criminal and civil investigations and litigation it has spawned.
The events of May 23 involving Mr. Watkins were first described – and decried – by a pseudonymous poster on Reddit. (“This is Alameda, folks. For fucks sake. Fuck the Karen who did this.”) The next week, according to the East Bay Citizen, a video “created by a member of the public went viral on various social media sites,” and on June 5, the City released – as Police Chief Paul Rolleri had promised it would – the actual bodycam footage from the officers who took part in the detention and arrest.
Almost immediately, three Council members declared that they found the behavior of the police officers so appalling that it demonstrated the need to make far-reaching revisions to APD’s policies and procedures, and, indeed, to its very role in the community.
The day the bodycam tapes were released, John Knox White, then the Vice Mayor, described them in a Facebook post as depicting a “disturbing and violent interaction” between police officers and Mr. Watkins, “one of our neighbors and a Black man who was wrestled to the ground and handcuffed for ‘dancing in the street.’” In fact, Mr. Watkins wasn’t arrested for “dancing in the street,” but Mr. Knox White’s characterization became part of the standard narrative (even among otherwise careful newspaper reporters).
“I am outraged and I am sad and I am committed to ensuring that there is a full, independent investigation and that there is accountability for those involved, including those who created a system that allowed this to happen,” Mr. Knox White went on. “I join our community in a call to action to implement systemic change to make sure that this never happens again.”
The June 5 Facebook posts by Councilwoman Malia Vella were similar. Apparently before she had even seen the bodycam footage, she posted that, “I am livid that what happened on May 23rd even occurred.” After watching the bodycam videos, she posted again: “I am sobbing. From the bottom of my heart – I am sorry. I am so so sorry. I don’t want to see this happen again. . . . I warn if you watch them – they are triggering ⚠️.”
In her first post, Ms. Vella accused APD management – she plainly was referring to Chief Rolleri – of a “cover up.” The next day, she condemned the citizen who had called the cops in the first place and opined that the police should not have dispatched officers to respond to the call at all. A week later, she concluded: “The time for transformative change is now – those in need should receive care that benefits them, rather than being criminalized for needing care. #LaborForBlackLives #BlackLivesMatter.”
And, of course, Councilman Jim Oddie also weighed in. “After seeing the social media video of APD’s interactions with one of our African American residents on May 23, I was angry and disgusted,” he posted on June 5. He then offered a list of specific actions he wanted to see taken, including implementing the “#8cantwait” policies – “none of us are safe unless all of us are safe” – and “evaluat[ing] and amend[ing] all of our policing policies incorporating principles of just policing – our Constitution demands equal protection of all of persons under the law.”
The politicians weren’t the only ones to discern racial bias in the detention and arrest of Mr. Watkins or to rely on that perception as justification for overhauling APD. Indeed, a handful of Alamedans who later became leaders of the police-reform committees took that position as soon as they saw the videos – and said so publicly.
“At the point he walks away, he tried to exercise a right that we all have as Americans, but as a Black person you don’t have that right,” Al Mance, an Alameda resident who works as an Alameda County public defender, told KGO-7. Later, Mr. Mance was quoted in the East Bay Times as saying that the officers “did not have a reasonable suspicion to detain” Mr. Watkins. “But that didn’t stop them.”
At the June 16 and 17 Council meetings, two of the public speakers were EF and DM. (Unlike Mr. Mance, these two women did not give television or press interviews, so we’ll follow our usual practice of not using the full names of public speakers at Council meetings.)
EF told Council that Mr. Watkins’ “detention and assault” by APD manifested “deeply ingrained racism.” She asked the elected officials to hold off passing a budget “until discussions about radically transforming policing in Alameda have at least started. . . .” She urged the City to take “immediate” steps to shift the “majority of the police budget” into funding for “community-support professionals”; to move funds being used for APD overtime into paying for crossing guards; and to sell the department’s “military-grade equipment” in order to “fund infrastructure investments.”
“These steps are needed,” she said, “not because of what happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd, or what is happening across the country. These steps are needed because of what happened here in our city less than a month ago.”
DM presented Council with her own list of what she called “demands.” Saying she wanted to “defund the police,” she urged Council not to “allocate one more dollar towards police in our city budget” but instead to “immediately reallocate” 10% of the police budget to “alternatives in policing” such as “health care, mental health care, education, housing, jobs and providing intervention and social workers as community-based first responders.” She also argued for establishing a “police oversight” committee “made up of majority impacted community members including youth and families,” and for “remov[ing] all law enforcement from schools” and “reinvest[ing]” in “youth restorative justice programs and community-based solutions.”
City Manager Eric Levitt later selected Mr. Mance to be one of the four members of the steering committee leading the police-reform process. The steering committee in turn appointed EF and DM as co-chairs of the “unbundling” subcommittee. The subcommittee reports released last month reveal that none of them has undergone any change of heart – or mind – since they first spoke out.
We previously pointed out that the subcommittees did not explicitly conclude in their reports that APD, on a department-wide basis, was enforcing the law in a discriminatory manner against Blacks and other persons of color, nor did they engage in the kind of analysis that researchers usually use to determine whether racial bias affects outcomes. Having gone back to look at some of the contemporaneous comments by those who came to lead the police-reform process, we may have a better understanding of the subcommittees’ thinking: there was no reason to delve into any details about racially discriminatory law enforcement by APD – the Watkins incident alone told them all they needed to know.
But we still have to ask: would an observer without any preconceived notions truly have viewed the Watkins incident as evidence of systemic racial bias in APD? We’ve heard many times how Alameda police have a historical “reputation” for racism. If one is intent on proving (or confirming) that the current crop of Alameda cops is living up (or down) to that reputation, the Watkins detention and arrest offers a perfect opportunity. Why would officers who are white detain and arrest a Black man who, when approached, was committing no crime? To those schooled in critical race theory, there can be only one answer: racism. Mr. Watkins’s conduct is irrelevant; his race explains it all.
We’d like to think that our local activists are not using the Watkins incident simply to validate the bleak view of the police they already held. But we can’t be sure.
Likewise, the context in which news of the incident surfaced cannot be ignored. George Floyd was killed on May 25; the video “created by a member of the public” of Mr. Watkins’s detention and arrest was posted on social media the following week. We have no reason to believe that the person who posted was attempting to exploit the outrage caused by the Floyd killing. Indeed, as far as we know, no one ever accused Alameda cops of treating Mr. Watkins as badly as the Minneapolis cops treated Mr. Floyd. But if one ignores the obvious dissimilarities and focuses only on the superficial parallels, one might well see the Alameda event as a symptom of the same disease, for which the same surgery is indicated: If police officers everywhere are assaulting Black men on the street, then maybe every police department ought to be abolished (or “defunded”) altogether – and it ought to happen here and now.
We’d like to think that our local politicians are not using the Watkins incident primarily to persuade their base that they, like their “progressive” counterparts across the country, can get tough on the police. But we can’t be sure about that, either.
Now for the updates.
As Council was refining the police-reform process, two separate investigations into the events of May 23 were going on.
The cops had cited – i.e., given a ticket to – Mr. Watkins for violating Penal Code section 148, which provides that any person who “willfully resists, delays, or obstructs any [police officer] in the discharge or attempt to discharge any duty of his or her office or employment” is guilty of a misdemeanor. But, in a July 10 letter, Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley informed Chief Rolleri that the D.A. declined to file charges in the case.
The letter was extraordinary, for two reasons.
First, a prosecutor often will choose not to proceed against the person arrested for a crime if she is not confident she can prove the defendant’s guilt to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt – but she seldom, if ever, writes a letter to a police chief explaining her decision not to do so in a misdemeanor case.
Second, the letter is, to put it politely, sloppily worded. “We do believe,” it states, “that the Officers did not have sufficient probable cause to detain [Mr. Watkins], making the citation null and void.” But, as the D.A. surely knows, “probable cause” is the standard used to determine whether an arrest is lawful, and a different – and lower – standard applies to a detention. (As the Nolo Press describes the difference between the italicized terms, “An officer’s ‘brief and cursory’ holding and questioning someone is a detention. . . . An arrest, on the other hand, involves the police taking someone into custody through a more significant restraint on movement.”) Indeed, the D.A.’s office itself has written, in an article distributed to police departments throughout the County, that police officers have the right to make so-called “special needs” detentions whenever they “reasonably believe” that a person may be sick, injured, or “so mentally unstable as to constitute a threat to himself or others.”
This ambiguity leaves the reader in doubt about what Ms. O’Malley decided the APD officers had done wrong: Was it the detention (which did not require “probable cause”) or the subsequent arrest (which did)? If what Ms. O’Malley meant to say is that the APD officers misjudged Mr. Watkins’s physical or mental condition and therefore shouldn’t have detained him, such a conclusion might support the idea that a health professional ought to accompany (or replace) police officers on certain calls. In that case, her opinion might carry some weight in deciding whether to recommend, or impose, that kind of reform. But it has nothing to do with race.
At the same time the District Attorney was reviewing the Watkins incident, an outside investigator retained by the City apparently was looking into it as well. We say “apparently” because the only information we could get is contained in a press release issued on July 9 announcing that the City had hired a southern California lawyer named Alfonso Estrada to “conduct an independent investigation” of Mr. Watkins’s arrest.
The City never posted any status reports about the investigation on its website, so we emailed a few questions to Mr. Levitt this Friday. We asked what the investigation consisted of, how long it lasted, and how much it cost. We also inquired about whether the investigator prepared a report, and, if so, to whom it was distributed. And we requested that the City Manager disclose, if he could do so without compromising privacy rights, what action(s), if any, were taken as a result of the investigation.
Mr. Levitt declined to answer any of our questions, even the most basic ones, in time for inclusion in this piece. Initially, he said he needed to consult the City Attorney. A few hours later, he informed us that, “Due to confidentiality of personnel files and an active claim with the City from Mr. Watkins, we will need time to review what is public record and can be provided. It will likely take until next week.”
We dearly hope that Mr. Levitt will decide to provide us with the elementary facts about the investigation so we can report them to the public. Not only did Alameda taxpayers pay for it, but we think its findings and conclusions would be relevant to evaluating what policy and procedural reforms, if any, the Watkins incident shows are necessary at APD.
If we get the answers, we’ll update this column. If not, everyone will be free to guess what the investigator did and what he found – which is, we have to say, not a very salutary state of affairs.
In the meantime, the only other information we can provide – which was confirmed by Human Resources Director Nancy Bronstein – is that one of the two police officers involved in detaining Mr. Watkins left the employ of the City at the end of 2020, and that the other officer, as well as the supervising sergeant, remain employed. We caution our readers, however, against jumping to the conclusion that anyone was fired (or not fired) as a result of the incident, since the City steadfastly refuses to disclose anything about personnel actions or the reasons therefor.
Finally, regardless of what police reforms Council chooses to enact, the fallout from the Watkins incident will not be over.
On July 6, Oakland attorney John Burris, who is well-known for bringing suits for monetary damages against governmental agencies alleging racially motivated police misconduct (he represented, among others, Rodney King and the family of Oscar Grant), filed a claim on behalf of Mr. Watkins against the City – the first step toward a potential lawsuit.
The claim alleged that Mr. Watkins had been “assaulted and arrested by City of Alameda Police officers for dancing in front of his home.” The APD officers had violated Mr. Watkins’ constitutional rights; used excessive force; committed assault, battery, and false imprisonment; and intentionally and negligently inflicted emotional distress, the claim stated. As a result, Mr. Watkins was entitled to compensation for “pain, suffering and emotional distress”; “medical and related expenses, lost wages, damage to career, damage to educational pursuits, [and] damage to property”; and “permanent mental injuries, permanent mental scarring and/or other psychological disabilities.”
What stuck out to us when we reviewed the claim was that it did not allege that the APD officers had engaged in the litany of misconduct against Mr. Watkins because of his race. Racial bias is not an element of any of the causes of action alleged by Mr. Burris – a white person can be the victim of a tortious assault, too – but, based on what we have observed over the years, he does not hesitate to call out racism when he sees it. He did not issue any press release or hold any news conference about the Watkins case, and it may be that the omission of any reference to racial bias in the claim was just an oversight. But it’s still somewhat odd.
Assistant City Attorney Alan Cohen told us the City did not file any written response to the claim within 45 days, and, as a matter of law, it thus is deemed to have been rejected. Mr. Cohen declined to comment any further about the case, including whether the parties have met to discuss settlement. (Privileged under Evidence Code section 1152, he asserted.) Indeed, he didn’t even give us the contact information we requested for the attorney in Mr. Burris’s office handling the matter.
Mr. Watkins now is free to file suit against the City. Our check of the Alameda County Superior Court online database showed that the only proceeding initiated by anyone named Mali Watkins in the last year was a change-of-name petition, which the court later dismissed. No action by him against the City of Alameda is listed. Stay tuned.
O’Malley letter: 2020-07-10 O’Malley letter to Rolleri
Alameda County District Attorney “Point of View” (winter 2020): Alameda County District Attorney, POV (winter 2020)
Watkins claim against City: Watkins claim REDACTED
Having reviewed the bodycam footage of the incident on YouTube, I submit that the situation was escalated by Mr. Watkins himself, not the officers who responded to the call. It is clear that he took affront to the very presence of police officers approaching him in the bicycle land on Central Avenue – and basically shut down the conversation and attempted to walk away, rather than answer any questions about his emotional state. The officer had just informed him that there were just a few more questions to be answered before they would be ‘on their way’, but at that point he attempted to shut them down and walk away. This is clearly confrontational behavior, but not on the part of the officers, but on the part of Mr. Watkins. Let’s be clear here. If I was dancing in the bike lane on Central Avenue, and was approached by an officer, I would consider that questions about my behavior might be justified, and simply answer them. The bike lane is a questionable place to dance.
Having used the Central Avenue bike lane for my daily runs,. I can assess that it is important to maintain awareness, and I keep a pretty good lookout, as there have been times I have taken to the sidewalk to avoid traffic, including bicycles. In fact, there have been a few times that Alameda police officers in cruisers driving by have cautioned me to be careful to watch for cars pulling out of driveways, etc. These interactions never lead to conflict, as both parties are communicative and cooperative, which is not the case here.
The police in this case were actually pretty polite – but not Mr Watkins – who is the one who escalated the situation.
So – the real question here is: What should the police have done differently? Is it even possible to defuse the situation when someone is determined to escalate it to crisis proportions?
I leave the answer to this fundamental question to the professionals. Dr. Phil, where are you?
Walking away is confrontation behavior? That’s a rather interesting perspective you have. You do have the constitutional right to walk away unless you’re being detained. Mr. Watkins was not being detained.
Even the District Attorney’s office agrees – “These officers require training regarding contacts, detentions, citations and arrest of individuals. The law allows a member of the public to walk away from a consensual contact with the police if there is no legal authority to detain the individual.”
There hasn’t been a valid stop-and-identify-statute on the books in California since Kolender v. Lawson in 1983
Ironically, that case was similar to the Mali Watkins case – a law-abiding black man was needlessly harassed by police who demand identification.
We are under no obligation to identify ourselves to police, let alone produce identification or answer questions under consensual contact – which this was at first, nor under detention. The officer escalated it to a detention when he didn’t like the response from Watkins, who has some proper sense of his rights as an American.
The problem in this case is the systemic bias in U.S. policing that led the officer to persist in questioning and detaining Watkins even after he clearly explained what he was doing and was obviously lucid.
The problem in this case – as the District Attorney avered in a letter to the City of Alameda – is that the officer persisted in illegally insisting that Watkins produce identification.
This is not Nazi Germany. Maybe you’d be more comfortable there. This man broke no laws, and required no help. The LEO violated his rights. This is very simple. You have problems. and need help
You neglected to point out that Councilmember Vella made her comment after viewing the bystander video, which was just as damning as the bodycam videos.
While on this topic, many in Alameda were alarmed by a recent antic by Councilmember Spencer, which posed a safety hazard to members of our community. Councilmember Spencer doxxed the names of 253 individuals in a hostile online environment without their permission, which may have potentially put them in harm’s way. I will cite what was relayed to me by a volunteer group known as Transform Alameda:
“Last week one of our Council-members, Trish Herrera Spencer, made public a list of 253 people who applied to be in the Police Reform Subcommittees and Jackson Park Renaming Committee… …If the people applying knew their information was going to be released this may not have been as problematic. But that is not the case. Additionally concerning is that there are minors on this list, youth in our community who just wanted to get involved. What adds fuel to the flame is that Ms. Spencer posted these lists among a group of people on NextDoor (known to harbor Alameda’s radical right wing) who talk about being armed and want to ‘take back the city.’ The context of the posting is highly concerning and unbecoming of any elected official. Posting in a thread of ‘armed citizens’ who are upset and want action is inexcusable. Many listed fear retaliation for their work.”
While obtaining information via a PRA request is perfectly legal, how the information was used was highly unethical – especially for a current councilmember. It was disappointing to see, and given who did it, perhaps not surprising.
I don’t have a lot of time to respond to your assertions but you mentioned me by name (again) so here we go.
1) I did not give an interview to the East Bay Times, they quoted my comments from the town hall. I haven’t given any interviews to anyone and it’s strange that you assume I did. Did you watch the whole town hall?
2) In my quoted statement, I use the term reasonable suspicion, which is the standard for a detention. Reasonable suspcion and probable cause are extremely similar and are sometimes used interchangeably even by those in law enforcement. A quick google search (I’m sure you googled this didn’t you?) pulls up the Maricopa county government website which gives these definitions:
Definition of Probable Cause – Probable cause means that a reasonable person would believe that a crime was in the process of being committed, had been committed, or was going to be committed.
Definition of Reasonable Suspicion – Reasonable suspicion has been defined by the United States Supreme Court as “the sort of common-sense conclusion about human behavior upon which practical people . . . are entitled to rely.” Further, it has defined reasonable suspicion as requiring only something more than an “unarticulated hunch.” It requires facts or circumstances that give rise to more than a bare, imaginary, or purely conjectural suspicion.
Reasonable suspicion means that any reasonable person would suspect that a crime was in the process of being committed, had been committed or was going to be committed very soon.
Notice that the wording is almost exactly the same?
I would also point you to Florida v. Bostick, an 1991 U.S. Supreme Court case in which the court held that A person’s refusal to cooperate is not sufficient for reasonable suspicion. Florida v. Bostick 501 U.S. 429, 437 (1991).
I find it interesting that you question the D.A.’s letter declining to charge. Do you think that the “critical race theory” conspiracy extends all the way to her?
It is strange to me that you argue that the D.A. applied to wrong standard without stating the correct standard and why it would justify the detentions.
Let me explain to you why it wouldn’t.
As you may recall, Mr. Watkins answered the officer’s questions and explained himself in a reasonable manner prior to disengaging; 1) he was in the street to distance from walkers because of the pandemic, 2) he was standing in front of his house. He displayed no symptoms of mental illness in his speech or actions.
Accordingly, there was no reasonable suspicion to detain him.
Perhaps you’re caught up on the fact that the caller told the dispatcher that the man might be mentally ill or on drugs (actually the dispatcher asked her if this was possible and she said yes). What matters however, is that that was not communicated to the police officers. All that they were told is that there was a black man, dressed in black, dancing in the street. Yet when they approached Mr. Watkins, one officer approached him from the front and one stood directly behind him. This is not consistent with a consensual encounter, it’s consistent with a detention. Black man, black clothes, dancing in the street. Is that enough to detain?
Would it be enough to detain you?
Mr. Watkins informed the officers that he lived across the street and that he was standing in the road rather than on the sidewalk to maintain social distancing.
What about those responses indicates mental illness? What about those responses gives the officers reasonable suspiscion to detain? Nothing.
So Mr. Watkins walked away. This is every person’s right when they are not legally detained by the police. The officers responded by grabbing his arm, twisting it behind his back and wrestling him to the ground. They then handcuff him and leave him there for a while.
Would this have happened to you?
In your article you ask:
“Would an observer without any preconceived notions truly have viewed the Watkins incident as evidence of systemic racial bias in APD? We’ve heard many times how Alameda police have a historical “reputation” for racism. If one is intent on proving (or confirming) that the current crop of Alameda cops is living up (or down) to that reputation, the Watkins detention and arrest offers a perfect opportunity. Why would officers who are white detain and arrest a Black man who, when approached, was committing no crime? To those schooled in critical race theory, there can be only one answer: racism. Mr. Watkins’s conduct is irrelevant; his race explains it all.”
Mr. Watkins conduct is not irrelevant. He did nothing wrong. I invite you, I challenge you, to explain where he was at fault.
it is disturbing to me that you seem to see yourself as the voice of reason while writing off all of the people of color as being histrionic at best and having an evil agenda at worst. Do you think that you are the “observer without any preconceived notions.” Of all of the conclusions that you reach, that impresses me as being furthest from the truth.
Why are you so quick to attribute bad motives to people who are just interested in making our city better. I understand that policing in Alameda works just fine for you, but are you unable to understand that that isn’t the case for everyone?
You are obviously unwilling to take us at our word. What am I, as a Black man, to take away from that?
Thank you for your interest in this subject.
Thank you Al, I agree with you. See my prior response above re: Kolander v. Lawson.
Watkins answered their questions – under consensual contact – and then tried to dis-engage, which was his right.
Shortly after that incident and the subsequent council move to gut the police force, I was having a conversation with a person who is strongly anti police and who believes APD is a racist organization. I asked her why she believed that about APD. She cited:
-The Watkins incident
-The 1991 scandal about racist emails
Rational people do not conclude that one incident of less-than-ideal judgment in which nobody was injured and a 3 decade old scandal is sufficient cause to de-fund APD, especially during a major and disturbing increase in violent crime.
And now we have just this week breaking news of a recently-departed-from-the-force former APD officer tweeting hateful remarks against Breonna Taylor and talking about her thug life and her boyfriend’s thug life.
Is that recent enough for you?
Thank you for the article. Some may be interested in tonight’s City Council meeting (March 2), which includes Agenda Items:
6-B: Request to approve Mid-year Budget adjustments; and,
6-F: Recommendation to Consider Options for the Alameda Police Department’s Emergency Response Vehicle. “The City of Alameda (City) Police Department is requesting the Mayor and City Council reconsider their decision to sell the Emergency Response Vehicle. The Emergency Response Vehicle is a critical tool to assist the Police Department in keeping the citizens of Alameda safe.”
Members of the public may comment via emails to Council and staff and Zoom/phone during the meeting (instructions on top of agenda). For clarification, all emails to Council and staff may be deemed a public record and disclosed to the public.
Thank you for sharing this information. I was able to attend last night and was happy to see one of the public commenters raised the issue of how you recklessly released the names of hundreds of private citizens considered for the police reform commission, including the names of minors. You did this within an anti-police reform thread on Nextdoor that included dangerous rhetoric like “take back our city.” Would you care to comment? For what possible reason would you have done this? To intimidate these people? To paint targets on them by directing ire? “For transparency”?
I am the EF mentioned. I am decidely male and literally every time I speak at council, the mayor calls me Mr. So it’s not a secret. But if you require proof of my sex, let me know.
Also, you’re wrong about how the committee process worked.
And your insinuation that council is chomping at the bit for police reform is also demonstrably wrong. I WISH THEY WERE. But they’ve done essentially nothing for a year other than delay.
Since these are basic facts that you get wrong, it makes me question your analysis here and elsewhere on the MGR. Disappointing to say the least.
After reading these comments, filled with disdainful rhetoric and dripping with accusatory language in response to your perfectly reasonable observations and questions about an isolated incident seized upon and blown far out of proportion by political opportunists, all I can say is welcome to the new woke Alameda!
“Tone Policing: Tone policing (also tone trolling, tone argument, and tone fallacy) is an ad hominem (personal attack) and anti-debate tactic based on criticizing a person for expressing emotion. Tone policing detracts from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself.
The notion of tone policing became widespread in U.S. social activist circles by the mid-2010s. It was widely disseminated in a 2015 comic issued by the Everyday Feminism website. Many activists argued that tone policing was regularly employed against feminist and Black Lives Matter advocates, criticizing the way that they presented their arguments rather than engaging with the arguments themselves.”
Seems to be yet another instance of the demand for racism being much greater than the supply. I did watch the video and Watkins escalated the interaction for sure but also maybe it was the wrong call not to let him walk away. I’m interested to know of any other allegedly racist police actions in the not-too-distant past. There must be more than a few to justify understaffing the police department, right?
It was of course the wrong call on the part of the officer to not let Watkins dis-engage from consensual contact and walk away. There was no basis to escalate the call from consensual contact to detention.
There is no valid stop and identify law on the books in California – the officer had no lawful right to demand identification.
“The day the bodycam tapes were released, John Knox White, then the Vice Mayor, described them in a Facebook post as depicting a “disturbing and violent interaction” between police officers and Mr. Watkins”
As usual, JKW, a pretend-progressive is missing the point and out of touch….
The problem, which lies with the police, started well before the arrest of Watkins.
The problem was that the (white) police officer saw fit to persist in detaining Watkins long after he proved himself to be lucid and of sound mind, and clearly explained why he was in the bicycle lane.
The systemic bias and racism that we need to focus on is everything going on in the minds of the officers from when the call comes on the radio – “a black man” – to initial consensual contact and right up to the point the officer unlawfully escalated the contact to a detention, and unlawfully demanded that Watkins identify himself. We have no valid stop and identify law on the books in California, not since a similar incident in LA, circa 1982. (Kolander v. Lawson.) After that case, the LA Sheriff’s office asked the legislature to remove the law in question from the books, because they knew it was weak, and didn’t want substantiated case law on the books preventing them for demanding ID during consensual contact.
The arrest and manhandling of Watkins was disturbing mostly because it never needed to happen, because the officer never should have escalated it to that point.
Instead, he could have said, “I hear you – you’re in the bike lane because of social distance. But understand how it looks to other people watching you. Best if you stay on the sidewalk. Have a nice day.”
But the officer, apparently because of systemic bias, and his own hubris, just could not let the issue go, and he had to escalate.
It’s no wonder Watkins resisted an illegal detention and arrest. Nobody should blame him for unlawful detention at the hands of the state in a country with a constitution such as we have.
JKW, as usually, gets it wrong…