Friday, January 9, 2009

KSL Releases Video Showing UHP Traffic Stop Of Sherida Felders In Association With Her Racial Profiling Suit; Felders May Have Made A Racist Remark

KSL Channel 5 has posted a video of the UHP traffic stop of Sherida Felders on their website. The dashcam video is slightly over 22 minutes long. A total of three UHP troopers are shown ultimately involved in the stop. I previously discussed the traffic stop on December 30th, and the reaction by three Utah lawyers on January 4th. For additional reference, here are links to the suit documents:

-- Civil cover sheet
-- Copy of lawsuit
-- Complaint filed by Felders

During an early segment, the initial trooper says, "So there's nothing illegal in the vehicle, so you wouldn't mind if I searched your vehicle?" Felders clearly responds, "Yeah, I do mind if you search it". Shortly thereafter, Felders said, "This doesn't make no sense. I don't even do drugs", to which the trooper responded, "I've been doing this for a long time".

Felders was assertive but not aggressive. Neither she nor the two black youths accompanying her appear to mouth off to or interfere with the troopers in any way. In addition, the troopers appeared to behave quite professionally towards the three, and actually were somewhat solicitious of their personal welfare, asking the one black youth if he was sure he didn't want his jacket.

The video then shows the dog search, which was unsuccessful. The dog did not alert. Then at the 8:20 point, a trooper dons gloves and begins the hand search of the vehicle. All three troopers participate. Soon the troopers begin removing items from the vehicle.

But it's at the 20:30 point that things begin to get interesting. If you listen very closely, you will hear Sherida Felders making some remark in the background in that shrill voice of hers, although you will not be able to distinguish the words. It may have been a racist remark towards the UHP trooper which touched a raw nerve, because at the 20:53 point, you will hear the trooper say, "There it is...there's the black...the black comment", suffixed almost immediately thereafter by the remark, "I was just waiting for that". Since it was loud enough for me to distinctly hear on the video, most likely it was loud enough for Felders to hear.

And it's this exchange that Felders is most likely parlaying into a "racial profiling" case. KSL story video embedded below; to view the separate Dashcam video, you will have to go to the KSL website, then select Dashcam Video:

Video Courtesy of KSL.com



UHP has denied any racial profiling. They said the trooper would've acted the same no matter the race of the people in the car.

But it now appears that Sherida Felders is the real - and only - racist in this case. The trooper's remark about "the black comment" in clearly in response to a racially-provocative remark on Felders' part. Perhaps he should have avoided it, but that doesn't constitute evidence of any "profiling".

And Felders' whining about profiling actually obscures some real Fourth Amendment concerns here. The dog search may have been justified, but what about the hand search? Particularly in light of the failure of the dog to alert? Was it really necessary to detain these people for 2 1/2 hours on a "hunch"? Felders had already received a ticket for speeding; was it really necessary to hassle her any further? Even if you think she's a crybaby and you disapprove of black behavior in general, at least focus upon the Fourth Amendment implications of this traffic stop before rendering judgment.

The trooper's statement about "doing this a long time" is somewhat of an arrogant response. Perhaps if the trooper had taken Felders into his confidence and explained to her that the I-15 corridor through Cedar City was a notorious drug corridor, she might have agreed to a voluntary search. But too many authority figures in American society hide behind secrecy and confidentiality in order to avoid accountability. Law enforcement needs to treat the public more as partners rather than as the enemy; they shouldn't treat the public as the enemy unless the public behaves like the enemy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Did you forget what the attorney who wasn't involved in this case said? Let me refresh your memory:

"Once the initial purpose for a stop is concluded, the motorist must be allowed to depart unless the officer has probable cause to suspect other illegal activity, such as spotting a gun inside the car or any illegal item in plain view, such as drugs or an open container of an alcoholic beverage."

Of course, in this case, there was no such probable cause or even reason to be suspicious of any illegal activity.... unless you count "driving while black in Utah" as suspicious. I don't think you do that, do you?

It's funny you would focus on something Felders MAY have said. Do you consider it "racist" to say something along the lines of "I'm just getting hassled because I'm black." A person can't complain when they feel they are getting subjected to racist behavior?

And in your other blog entry regarding this matter, you speculated that Felders' two passengers MIGHT HAVE mouthed off at the officer. And this speculation is based on what? Because they're black?

You can write whatever you want on your blog, but you might want to think a little bit more about these things before you write them down....