Was that actress REALLY arrested because she’s black?

UPDATE: TMZ has photos.

I wrote yesterday about an African-American actress, Daniele Watts, who was arrested (the cops claim she was only temporarily detained, but she was in handcuffs) after someone phoned in a complaint claiming that Watts and her boyfriend were having sex in their car.

At the time, I believed Watts, and wrote a rather indignant piece about it. Now, I’m less sure.

One big lesson I’ve learned from my decades of gay rights advocacy is that you have to be really careful about crying wolf. Meaning, if you’re going to claim a gay civil rights violation, you’d better get the story right, or people are going to be less willing to believe you the next time there’s an actual gay rights violation.

daniele-watts-featured-3A supposed hate crime against a young woman in Nebraska last year comes to mind. I refused to write about it because, having worked on hate crimes issues for some twenty years now, the story smelled phony to me. Some ever-vigilant readers responded to my non-reportage by claiming that the only reason I wasn’t writing about the story was because I hate lesbians, or women, or maybe it was Nebraska. A few weeks later we found out the young woman faked the entire story and lied to the police.

Back to Daniele Watts.

I’m not sure why, but I believed her. But now, after two of my friends on Facebook questioned her story, and questioned why I was so eager to believe her side of things, I’m giving it another look, and I’m thinking my friends may be right.

TMZ has new audio, recorded by the police — the LAPD has auto-recording thingies on their uniforms — that shows the cops being pretty darn respectful, and Watts being anything but.

First the audio, then some commentary.

Here’s the thing. While the audio tells us more about what actually happened, it doesn’t tell us everything. I will admit that the cops sound awfully respectful, and they admit up front why they’re there — that someone phoned in claiming that Watts and her boyfriend were having sex. The cop asked for their IDs. At that point, had it been me, and assuming I wasn’t just having public sex, I’d have laughed, denied it, and handed the cop my ID.

The thing is, I’m not black.

I have no idea what it’s like for a black person vis-a-vis the cops in America, and have no idea what life has been like for Daniele Watts in particular. Is this the 10,000th time a police officer has asked for her ID, when her white friends never get asked? If so, then perhaps she has a reason to be tense, angry, and uncooperative. For the cop, this is the first time he’s spoken with Watts. For Watts, it’s (perhaps) the gazillionth time she’s been asked for an ID, and she’d therefore be understandably fed up.

I have to say it’s a tough call. I can see why the police think they’re right, and I can see why Watts thinks she is as well. It’s entirely possible that they both are.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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94 Responses to “Was that actress REALLY arrested because she’s black?”

  1. Duncan Watson says:

    Because of course it is just the normal thing to do to black people, handcuff them and give them a timeout if they mouth off to a person of authority.

  2. Counting this post? One. And folks are of course free to check out our archives on racism and African-Americans, and confirm for themselves: http://aravosis.wpengine.com/tag/african-americans

    More generally, I get that you grow uncomfortable having a civil, honest, and open discussion when you find people disagreeing with you. And that’s fine. I find it rather illiberal and counterproductive, but I accept the fact that some people simply can’t engage in civil discourse. And honestly, our site really wasn’t set up for those kind of people. It’s for people who want to learn, who want share, who want to test their ideas, and test the ideas of others, all towards the goal of hopefully making the world a better place, and enjoying ourselves on the way there.

    It’s become rather clear from your comments that you’re not happy here. Fortunately there are ample sites on the Net where everyone agrees with eachother, and the writers make sure never to write anything that might risk challenging the preconceived notions of their readers. This, sadly for you, but fortunately for the rest of us, is not that place. I wish you well, but you’ll be leaving now.

  3. Reasor says:

    I’d settle for John either starting to call white evangelists “witch doctors,” or ceasing to use that term when he’s talking about black evangelists.

  4. mirror says:

    Many times when John has posted a story about an ordinary black person either doing something special or being treated particularly bad, he has later followed up with a piece elaborating on something about that person suggesting they don’t deserve our respect or sympathy. It’s been going on for years with him, and appears pretty hard-wired. Individual black people so often just don’t get how good they have it, or could have it, if they only did x, y, or z…

  5. mirror says:

    Hey, Judy, do you have any idea whether you were in an officially designated “high prostitution” zone from which certain individuals are barred from going by court order because of their history?

  6. mirror says:

    I don’t get this whole thing about how giving an ID is supposed to prove. All it can do is alert police if you have any outstanding warrants, or if there is a court order barring you from a designated “high prostitution” zone. Was this such a designated zone?

    In addition, it can alert police if you have priors, but it seems to me that you either do or don’t have evidence of the person having committed the crime you are investigating.

    Like I said, it’s mostly about pretext to run the ID’s of black people for warrants.

  7. mirror says:

    This is a worthy addition to your ongoing series, the one that includes the classic about how black people would get better and higher paying jobs if they just stopped talking funny.

  8. mirror says:

    God, are you incapable of evolving?

    Dang, I’ll bet you have a black friend, too.

  9. mirror says:

    John, are you being deliberately disingenuous in pointing out how polite the police were? Police are trained to polite, and the more over the line the thing they are doing is, the more polite they are supposed to be. Haven’t you seen the multitude of videos where a police officer (often in concert with other officers) is beating some already immobilized person while they say, politely but firmly, “Stop resisting, stop resisting” ?

  10. mirror says:

    I’m kind of catching on that John is probably a fan of the Stop-and-Frisk program in New York too. Sort of a walking while black, or being impolite while black, exception to the Constitution. And, of course, as John says, as long as it hasn’t happened an excessive number of times to that individual, that person is just asking for trouble if they want to assert their civil rights as a United States citizen, especially if they want to assert those civil rights in a way that isn’t properly respectful.

  11. mirror says:

    Like I said in my post the previous time – any pretext to check black people for warrants.

    You seem pretty happy with pretextual ID checks,here, John. You seem to want to take the example you give of a fortuitous accident and in turn support a system for generating higher numbers of pretexts for ID checks in hopes of catching more wanted criminals. Pretext.

    Why don’t you go re-read up on St. Louis county, Missouri, and how the interaction between biased enforcement, poverty, and pretext stops creates an obvious cycle of oppression and powerless resentment.

    You really do want your black people polite, don’t you?

  12. Hatfield says:

    It’s because the default position of cops is that blacks are scum until proven otherwise. Technically, the actor may have been in the wrong but to be suddenly confronted by cops accusing you of being a whore is pretty disgusting. California does not have a “stop and identify” statute so cops there do not have the right to just ask people for no good reason for their ID. Someone supposedly made the initial call, but since this couple was not having sex, the caller could have meant someone else.

  13. fdrdem says:

    I did comment but I guess you don’t like it. I live in Orange County. She should be glad it wasn’t here. The cops here would have dragged her off to jail and she could have picketed the police dept for 3 days. I thought she was rude to the cop and he cuffed her. I don’t blame him. This is the same conduct cops see every day along Beach Blvd. which runs thru LA. Cops get calls all the time about this kind of conduct which happens all the time with those prostitutes which are all colors. They don’t give a hoot about interracial couples or blacks in LA. Get a room folks and if the cops knock down your door they had better have a reason. I think I would have been embarrased and kept my mouth shut. You can’t have sex in a car in front of a 4-story bldg and expect privacy. Sheesh.

  14. Moderator4 says:

    Whiskey Man, keep the ad hominem attacks out of your comments in the future.

  15. Whiskey Man says:

    Nicho , I guess your Momma did not brag about your School Grades much.Did you catch the Photos ? and if you did I guess that if that was you Daughter you would be proud to show them to Grand Ma at dinner. Talk about a “IDIOT ” Obama Voter ?

  16. nicho says:

    Yeah, but that’s not the issue. A black woman involved in whatever with a white man is assumed to be a prostitute.

  17. SkippyFlipjack says:

    In what area would you expect to see people having sex in a car in the daytime? :)

    This was outside the CBS lot in Studio City, which I don’t believe sees much prostitution.

  18. Mark_in_MN says:

    I’m not much concerned about racial motivation or abuse here. I don’t think the police officer’s snarky remarks were professional. I don’t think his insistence that she provide an ID was necessary or appropriate, especially given the relative minor offense that was alleged by the caller. He asked for the ID, and there was nothing wrong with asking for it. She didn’t want to provide it. That should have been the end of it, unless he had evidence or more reason to pursue it further (such as other details to ask about). And even that could have been done without making an issue of the ID.

  19. Nicholas says:

    Or, if she were doing what she was doing in an area known for prostitution. Or, in an area where people do not expect to see people having sex in a car in the daytime. Again, it’s not always about race.

  20. Mark_in_MN says:

    She left, yet they handcuffed her. Maybe she was distancing herself, but leaving and getting handcuffed are mutually exclusive. She was there to be handcuffed.

    The police officer showed up. They weren’t doing anything and denied it. He didn’t see anything himself to warrant further investigation. (He eventually said that if she’d have given him her ID he’d be gone already.) And he apparently had no evidence of anything more. So that should have been the end of the story. She didn’t want to give him her ID, as is able to do. He should have simply left and made whatever report department procedures might require of him.

  21. Badgerite says:

    I thought he did act professionally. As he stated, he was required to ascertain what the situation was. Because there had been complaints and the complaints were probably valid. These guys are not trained and get no points for backing down in the face of protestations that “I wasn’t doing anything”.
    I’m sure they get that a lot. Even when someone is doing ‘something’.
    I think John is right about this. The actions of both are understandable. It is more a situation of misunderstanding than anything else. I don’t think there was out and out intentional or racially motivated abusiveness going on there.
    I think I understand her actions and her upset.
    But I don’t think this cop’s actions warranted it.

  22. SkippyFlipjack says:

    They handcuffed her because she left. I’m not sure you have that right, in that situation.

  23. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I imagine that’s where the racial aspect comes in — people might be more inclined to think ‘prostitution’ according to certain racial profiling.

  24. SkippyFlipjack says:

    People might look at the flip side. If a bunch of prudish people see lewd behavior and call the cops, they’d also be watching as the cops drove by, said “Move along” and kept rolling. You don’t think that would generate more calls to the police to ask why they didn’t do more than just shoo them somewhere else without at least checking things out?

  25. SkippyFlipjack says:

    If you look up the statute on lewd behavior, you can do things in public as long as no one sees, or if you have an honest belief no one sees. So when people called the cops, it almost by definition turned frisky behavior into a possible criminal act. The cops had to check it out.

  26. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Not sure if you’ve spent much time in LA, but interracial couples aren’t at all unusual there. I don’t think that explanation holds much water. If you listened, the cop basically did want to just tell them to “move along”. LA cops are a little more regimented than in small towns, so checking IDs is standard operating procedure. (I’m a white guy and LA is the only place in the country I’ve ever been frisked by cops, for pretty much nothing.)

  27. Mark_in_MN says:

    It’s still not clear to me after seeing that. The photos don’t show anything that’s clearly public lewdness. And it’s TMZ, hardly a source that sticks strictly to facts without sensationalism. And, of course, another question is why people in the office were watching rather than doing their work and paying no attention to what was going on down on the street. Could they really see clearly and in detail from the angles and distance the photos suggest?

    Maybe there was something that was at least a bit too far. Maybe not. But I don’t know that it justifies the treatment here, especially handcuffing someone because they exercise their right to decline to give their ID to a police officer.

  28. Mark_in_MN says:

    They are also supposed to be professionals, and so are supposed to keep their emotions in check. Annoyed or not, he should have rationally evaluated the situation and just left the ID issue alone, since he really didn’t need it.

  29. SkippyFlipjack says:

    It’s come out since the initial articles that they were, according to witnesses, having sex in the passenger seat of the car, with the door open.

  30. Badgerite says:

    They’re human. I think he didn’t like the way he was being treated by her.
    I suspect he thought he wasn’t doing anything wrong either. Just his job.
    And someone saying that they were going to call their ‘publicist’ as if to challenge the authority of the police because “I’m famous”. I wonder how often these Hollywood cops get that. And resent it.

  31. Sorry, I forgot to mention earlier that in addition to “LOL,” exclamation points are also not an actual argument.

    Or perhaps I should just respond: “LOL! Did you SERIOUSLY just post that comment?!?!?!?!?!?! OMFGROTFL!!!!!!”

  32. PeteWa says:

    are you seriously comparing extortion to a questionable public display of affection?
    are you seriously calling extortion a minor infraction?
    see you later!

  33. Maybe. But no one is mentioning that the cop wasn’t white either.

  34. I just disagree. The person who called gave details. Claimed they took a kleenex to clean up their mess and then threw it on the ground. That’s a rather graphic detail for something that didn’t happen. I can see why the cops asked at least for an ID.

    And, asking for IDs for minor violations has often been an excellent way to catch bigger criminals. The caught a kidnapper years ago in DC because he was out extorting people for money for parking spaces in Adams Morgan, the drinking neighborhood (one of them, now). Minor infraction, but they came anyway, and he was wanted for kidnapping.

  35. nicho says:

    It’s not that she was black, but that it was an interracial couple. That’s the bottom line. had they both been black or both been white, it wouldn’t have been a problem.

    It’s just like when the cops find a straight couple of kids making out in a car, they have a chuckle and tell them to “move along.” If it’s a gay couple, they get arrested for “public indecency” and have to register as sexual offenders.

  36. nicho says:

    “Service her boyfriend?” What kind of idiot are you?

  37. PeteWa says:

    my argument is: this is a clear waste of resources for a claim that is no longer occurring and given that it’s a “reasonable belief” not even a “omg they were so fucking!” claim.
    cops show up, nothing is going on.
    but they felt the need to “investigate”… lol
    I understand that some people want the cops to do stuff like this.
    I’m not one of those people.

  38. Actually, yes, in the law when you have multiple witnesses claiming the same thing you do in fact have a reasonable justification to investigate further. LOL is not an argument that contramands common sense. (Multiple people say they saw me doing it. I say “no they didn’t!” And the cop should believe me rather than multiple witnesses? Not off the bat, he shouldn’t.)

  39. PeteWa says:

    and?
    witnesses said they were?
    so?
    “reasonable belief”
    lol

  40. Because a dozen witnesses in the office above said they were? The new pics from TMZ suggest at least that it was visible to the entire office above, and that the folks who called in had a reasonable belief they were having sex. So, it wasn’t unreasonable for the cops to inquire further. It is possible for people to have public sex and then finish by the time the cops arrive.

  41. PeteWa says:

    cops get there on a complaint of public sex, find two people not engaged in public sex, fully clothed.
    one of them talking to her father on the phone.
    why didn’t they just keep rolling?

  42. I’m not sure if it “looks like sex,” but it definitely is odd. I’m trying to figure out another reason to climb on top of him in the passenger seat like that, and my imagination is failing me. http://www.tmz.com/2014/09/17/django-unchained-actress-racism-lapd-daniele-watts-pictures-photos/

  43. Who called her a liar?

  44. zerosumgame0005 says:

    was she unclothed? were they engaged in public sex at the time (I do not think making-out, even in public is illegal)? Who made the supposed 911 call (911? really? for a black woman and white guy kissing? Is that really a justification for a 911 call?)?

  45. zerosumgame0005 says:

    was the cal SPECIFICALLY about her and her boy-friend? Also no matter how “respectfully” a cop is she had no compelling reason to hand over ID, certainly not by CA law. To ASSume she is a criminal because she asserted her legal rights is not “respectful” behavior no matter how smooth cop was. It’s OK to disagree but trying to disparage her as a liar is not “respectful” on your part…

  46. Nicholas says:

    Don’t you think it can also depend on the location and neighborhood? I might not call if I see that going on in a parking lot in a somewhat secluded area. But, how about on a street in the Gold Coast (Chicago)? Or, in an area that has had problems with prostitution? It’s not always about race.

  47. SkippyFlipjack says:

    Is this sarcasm?

  48. kingstonbears says:

    Career? Yeah, right.

  49. BeccaM says:

    Apparently TMZ has the dirt.

    http://www.tmz.com/2014/09/17/django-unchained-actress-racism-lapd-daniele-watts-pictures-photos/

    One call or not, if the report can be believed, it would seem there were more than a few witnesses and they were not happy at having to watch two people having sex in broad daylight, on a public street.

  50. BeccaM says:

    Bingo. Everybody seems to think every police stop is a chance to do a William Wallace “Freeeeedom!” rally.

    Real life doesn’t work like that. A cop doesn’t have to arrest you to detain you and basically chew up a few hours of your time -and- make you uncomfortable while it happens. The conditions of that detention can be casual, or they can slap on the cuffs and chuck you into the back of their squad car for the duration. People can claim it’s not right all they want (and sure, they’re right) — it is nevertheless entirely legal. Hell, even the line between “legal” and “the cops can get away with it because who’s the court gonna believe anyway” is badly blurred.

    If we want it to be different, well, it needs to be made not legal, and then enforced.

  51. BeccaM says:

    On the other hand…

    http://www.tmz.com/2014/09/17/django-unchained-actress-racism-lapd-daniele-watts-pictures-photos/

    There seems to have been more ‘there’ there after all, with respect to the public lewdness complaint.

  52. Tom Chicago says:

    I would also question whether the original caller would have made the call at all if the couple were not an interracial couple. In other words, is the allegation that of having public sex, or is it having interracial public sex?

  53. SkippyFlipjack says:

    It’s arguable whether having sex in public should be illegal, but it is, so it’s pretty funny that the actress had the gall to get upset about providing ID to the cops who were investigating the actual crime she was involved in actually committing.

  54. Dan Lack says:

    And now of course TMZ has released the photographs which to a reasonable person, seem to confirm the reason several folks called the police…so now Ms Watts’ career likely will be adversely affected, and I bet she wishes she had quietly produced her ID, and considered herself lucky, to be sent on her way, with no citations or anything else, and nobody likely would have ever known about this incident.

  55. Duke Woolworth says:

    I’ve found over the years that helping make somebody’s job easier helps me, too. Having license, registration and insurance ready at the window works wonders, resulting in warnings for some pretty impressive speeds. Being an old white guy perceived harmless helps a lot, too.
    Remember that many cops are conditioned under Big Me Little You. Don’t waste his time and he won’t waste yours.
    BTW, if he’s wearing mirrored sunglasses, all bets are off.

  56. Mark_in_MN says:

    There is law that limits what police can do, and law that gives individuals rights in such situations. Police should understand that no means no, and go no further unless they can clearly say why to the others involved and explain it before they push further. If they can’t they have no business perusing their actions.

    In no circumstance should questions about reasons and authority be an excuse for arrest or escalation. Unfortunately, too many police use it as an excuse for just that.

  57. Mark_in_MN says:

    He could ask for ID, but that also doesn’t mean he needs to ID someone they don’t have good reason to believe had actually committed a crime (someone calling to report something they fund suspicious isn’t, in itself, such a good reason). Legal or not, there was no reason to handcuff her, or push for the ID after she had said no to his request.

  58. Mark_in_MN says:

    One doesn’t need to physically harm someone to brutalize them.

  59. Mark_in_MN says:

    He did “check it out.” But what does that have to do with the ID request? The police officer just gets fixated on getting that ID. Why? His is that relevant? He even eventually says he’d have already been gone had she given her ID, which tells ou something about how much he needed it: not at all. There was nothing for him to do, things checked out fine, except she didn’t give him her ID and made a bug deal out of it when there wasn’t need to.

  60. BeccaM says:

    Give ID, don’t give ID — if the cops conclude you’re a prostitute, the ID isn’t going to matter. Whereas giving them the ID can give them information that’d hopefully prove otherwise.

    What I mean to say is, giving the ID, you’re actually probably reducing your chances of a prostitution arrest, whereas if you don’t, the likelihood of a ride to the local jail have to be higher.

    But I take your point: Faced with cops, one doesn’t always think clearly.

  61. judybrowni says:

    There’s a photo of her arm with blood on it, after the handcuffing.

    What? You’re disappointed she didn’t get 50 lashes?

    You racists kill me.

  62. judybrowni says:

    Unless you’re a professional who doesn’t want to be embarrassed by a “prostitution” bust on your record.

    I’m a 4’11” white woman (see my Mad Men avatar), usually conservatively dressed, works in the media — and the two times I dealt with the police, their first assumption was not to help me, but accuse me of being a prostitute!

  63. judybrowni says:

    It’s obvious you’re a racist, and your fancy schmanzying it up does nothing to hide that.

  64. judybrowni says:

    What I learned: I was on my own with street harassment or abuse, unless I wanted to risk being arrested by a cop for “prostitution.”

    Believe you me, I didn’t argue or berate the cops, just politely explained that I was being harassed/abused: first question, on both occasions, “Is he your pimp?”

    Even after explaining, no, I was a magazine editor, still the cops were cold, and made it clear that they were itching to arrest me.

    And I hadn’t even bothered them by calling for help in the first place! — once, it was a parole car passing, and another time someone who’d seen me be abused.

    Both in broad daylight, in residential neighborhoods, where I lived.

    And I’m white, but still, as a woman I was a suspect, first, in their eyes.

    Frankly, if they’d asked for ID after that I’d be afraid they were going to arrest me, and I’d have a “prostitution” bust on my record.

    And I’ll bet that black actress was afraid that by giving her ID she’d be embarrassed professionally with a “prostitution” arrest.

  65. SkippyFlipjack says:

    That’s actually kind of their job. When people report something going on, they check it out. If I saw suspicious behavior in my neighborhood and called the cops I’d want them to check it out, regardless of anyone’s racial background.

  66. SkippyFlipjack says:

    I think the cop sounded pretty respectful; he interacted with them in a fairly informal way. He was a little snarky but there was a little humor in it. (“I’m mildly interested in the fact that you have a publicist.”) I thought the audio was eye-opening, and changed my point of view. I mean, the woman rails on him for harassing her in front of her place of work, it sounded like — but didn’t she choose to have sex with her boyfriend in the car there?

    If there was a race issue going on, which there may have been, it would have been on the part of whatever neighbor called in the complaint. The cop was doing his job. I liked how he kept telling the boyfriend “I would have gone by now.” He just wanted to do his due diligence, get IDs and go on his way. I understand it’s a touchy thing — racism is out there, and if you’ve been pulled over for DWB many times, I get that your patience may be gone. But sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. And this police officer sounded like he handled the situation with patience (with the exception of pulling out the ‘race card’ card; he could have been a little more understanding.)

  67. Tatts says:

    “painful handcuffing?” Oh, Boo Hoo. Even if it were true, that’s not “brutalizing”

  68. Tatts says:

    Good point, Becca. Everybody knows (or should)…you do what the cops ask, and you sort it out later. Black or white.
    Now…if they are totally out of line and should have a search warrant but don’t, that’s different. But handing over your ID? Do it; that is not the place to draw the line in the sand.

  69. The_Fixer says:

    He wanted the ID so that he could run a warrant check. That appears to be standard operating procedure for just about every police department in the country. I’ve had occasional contact with police and always get asked.

    If the warrant check comes up with something, they arrest the person right there. It also gives them some time to interact with you to assess whether you are drunk, seem to be on drugs, or maybe acting suspicious in an effort to hide something.

    The police have always been a suspicious lot. But it’s getting to the point where regular people are under suspicion by them for doing something wrong, even if your crime is being nervous because some authority figure is attempting to find something for which he can arrest you.

  70. Jim Olson says:

    Yeah, if you were black, you’d be face down on the pavement in handcuffs after the first refusal.

  71. Colin says:

    I had an officer explain it to me this way; Whenever a cop stops you , you are at that point basically “arrested.” What it turns into depends on what happens in the next 5 minutes,

  72. tamarz says:

    I have no idea if they were having sex or not, and honestly, I don’t care. If the police got several calls, I can see why they might take it seriously. That’s one thing to check out. But if it was only one call, why harass someone whom you do not observe causing harm or danger to anyone?

  73. BeccaM says:

    Over the years, I’ve had a few encounters with the police…none of them truly bad, but it seems to me there’s a cost-benefit analysis to be made.

    Providing a name and ID is probably the least invasive way to cooperate and, if I’ve done nothing wrong, the most likely to get the officer to let me go on my way. Yeah, I may be legally entitled not to give a name or ID, but it’s a gesture of cooperation that is the least likely to get me into any kind of inadvertent trouble. (This may not be true for everyone, but I believe it’s true for myself.)

    That said, I’ve also seen enough advice given — including what John recounted above — to know never to give consent to be searched or to allow my vehicle to be searched, unless there’s no legal way avoid it.

    As for the judgment about the police being insistent or there clearly being nothing ‘nefarious’ going on…well, when they arrived, yes, Watts and her husband were clothed. But he was sitting on the passenger seat with the car door open and she was sitting on his lap. Given a previous call about alleged sexual activities going on, I’d think being in that situation would at least draw a question or two.

    Oh and BTW, there are lots of ways to have sex while fully clothed. Just sayin’.

  74. TomInCali says:

    I wouldn’t say the cop was “respectful”. He was snarky and condescending, at a minimum. Maybe justifiably, and he didn’t escalate things, which seems to be common these days. But he wasn’t a model of politeness, either. And by telling her she doesn’t have the right to refuse to show ID (she does… though it may trigger other actions), he was seemingly baiting her. I do wonder, though, why “showing ID” is such a big goal here for the cop. He already said that he determined no crime was being committed, and told the boyfriend that he’d “already be gone”. Given that, why not just go? Why does he need to lay eyes on ID before leaving?

  75. tamarz says:

    But would he have given up if you were black? my bet is not.
    As for what happened with the actress — I would certainly have given my ID if asked, but I haven’t had her experiences in life. And I must question why the police were so insistent. They got, apparently, one call that there was a sexual act going on in a car. When they arrived, both of the two were fully dressed and not engaged in anything nefarious. Cops must get all sorts of complaint calls all the time and many of them are just foolish calls from cranky people. Unless the cops saw some evidence of lawbreaking or other witnesses stated that they saw such activity, why did the cops feel they had to keep pushing?

  76. Whiskey Man says:

    The whole incident could have been avoided. That woman Watt made the decision to service her boyfriend in the Silver Mercedes. Anytime a citizen files complaint Officers have to respond. Sounds like she copped an attitude and Pulled the Race Card. It was more that just casual affection.The Police just don’t happen on you and ask for an ID . There has to be a reason . She just wanted attention and got it.

  77. Actually, I’ve done just that, something similar. We were 16, leaving a ski resort near Chicago, must have been in WI, to drive back home, and I was driving. Cop came up, shined a light in the car and asked if it would be okay if he searched the car. Remembering the civics class I just had, where they taught us about such things, I politely time him no. He got all bent out of shape, suggesting my response suggested I was guilty. And I politely told him “that I was happy to cooperate with him, and that he did not under any circumstances have my permission to search the car.” He kept pushing, and I kept politely not giving him permission. He finally gave up.

  78. BeccaM says:

    You raise a good point. Might be a factor of misogyny that’s also been ignored.

    From what I’ve seen over the last day or so about California’s laws regarding cops asking for IDs, the more I’m convinced it’s a tangled mess. There is no law saying police cannot ASK for an ID. But what most people don’t realize is that probable cause isn’t this magic wand that can always make the police do what you want. Cops have a lot of discretion in deciding whether to cuff someone or not, even if the plan isn’t necessarily to arrest the person, but merely temporary detention. (Honestly, I can’t say with absolute certainty whether the cuffing was illegal…but I lean towards it being legal if they wanted to detain Ms. Watts pending their being able to independently verify her identity sans ID card.)

    Basically, no, the cops can’t arrest you for failing to identify yourself, but they can detain you for a time, and that detention can include being cuffed and/or being put in the back of a squad car.

    Ms. Watts did forget the cardinal rule in getting cops to be Officer Friendly: Be polite to them. Handing over an ID is better than being frisked, and it’s way better than being taken into custody pending being able to verify you are who you say you are. But really, if one is looking to make a civil rights point, you don’t yell at or argue with or berate the cops. The advice I’ve seen is just to say, “I’m not legally required to show you my ID or to give you my name. Are you arresting me, or am I free to go?”

    But even that may not save one from a ride down to the local pokey.

  79. Sasha is well, thanks for asking. And currently begging me for a walk, which should happen shortly :)

  80. “The blacks”?

    And yes, I still beat my wife, Reasor. Thanks for asking. :-)

  81. judybrowni says:

    You’re coming from a priviledged white guy place, John. And perhaps your friend is, too.

    On both occasions where I asked for police help when I was being harassed/abused by a man, the first question out of the officer’s mouth was, “Is he your pimp?”

    And I’m white, but still a woman.

    In neither case, was that first question to the man — and it was obvious the cops weren’t going to help, and had it in mind to arrest me, if I pushed for help.

    I’ve read elsewhere that this actress had also been stopped by the police when she was 16, with her father, where the police assumed, again, she was a prostitute and her father was a trick/pimp.

    Maybe she’d had enough of that assumption, and she wasn’t legally required to give him her ID. He was — legally — in the wrong to cuff her, if she refused.

  82. An_American_Karol says:

    At 17 I got busted necking with my boyfriend (1970). The officer asked for our IDs. We gave it to him and got a lecture and were sent home. There was nothing racial about it. I do not imply there is no racial profiling. I believe there is a lot of it in this country; I don’t think this is an example of it. I would suggest battles be fought selectively, or John is right – “people will be less willing to believe you the next time”.

  83. BeccaM says:

    I didn’t weigh in yesterday because after reading the audio transcripts, something felt hinky about the situation.

    It still does. It’s also possible it’s not either the cops were racially motivated, acted illegally and in bad faith or Ms. Watts was looking to create a confrontation when one didn’t need to happen. It can be both.

  84. Duncan Watson says:

    Painful handcuffing has been reported multiple times. Just because you have normalized it for others doesn’t mean it isn’t brutal.

  85. Moderator3 says:

    It was.

  86. Reasor says:

    Was suspicion that the blacks might be lying the reason why you you didn’t find Ferguson worth reporting on?

  87. NCMan says:

    “they brutalized her”….. yours is the first report I have seen that the police had physically harmed this woman.

  88. Sam Jay says:

    Sorry, but she was looking for a fight. The cops was completely professional and reasonable. I doubt very sensuously she has been pulled over 10,000 times. She is playing the race card, and she has a very poor hand. Now ever racist out there will point to tis video. This is exactly the very good point John makes. Get the facts then make a judgement.

  89. Duncan Watson says:

    Being a cop in this case is like being customer service. Their job is to eat shit and like it. They can ask for ID but the woman is not required to give it or be nice about the request. The cops don’t like to eat shit and so they don’t, they instead brutalize the woman without legal cause.

    The cops are wrong.

  90. caphillprof says:

    I’m tired of white cops hassling black folk, or worse. They didn’t need to see anybody’s ID when they witnessed no crime in progress.

  91. HelenRainier says:

    When I originally read the story, it sounded as though her BF complied with the ID request immediately. The police were respectful in the video I saw. I’m glad that you’re reconsidering your position on this, John. Good job. How is Sasha doing? I’m sure she’s happy her Daddy is back home. :-)

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