The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Southern California has obtained and released body-cam footage of a Barstow, Calif., altercation between a black, eight-months-pregnant woman, Charlena Michelle Cooks, and police officers. The incident took place in January in front of Cooks’s daughter’s elementary school. The footage shows a police officer asking Cooks for her name; when she refuses to give it, and when she calls a friend to ask if she has the right to withhold her identification, the officer gives her two minutes to do so. About 30 seconds later, he attempts to restrain her in cuffs, which results in her being thrown to the ground, stomach down.
The altercation didn’t begin between the woman and the officers—it started between the cuffed, and eventually arrested, black woman and a white woman in the parking lot of the elementary school. The white woman had called the police over an incident of what the officers called “road rage” in the school’s parking lot, which failed to result in any damages to her car, meaning that no charges could be pressed.
Cooks could have, completely legally (as she committed no crime), just fled the scene in the first place. She was rewarded for waiting at the scene by being thrown to the ground in a manner that could have damaged her unborn daughter (the daughter has since been born, and while no abnormalities have been detected, doctors are watching her development closely).
It should also be noted that, in the state of California, Cooks had every right to withhold her identification from the officer.
Local officials are maintaining that the incident was handled properly, and that they take great strides in training their officers. Here, however, saying “why are you resisting?” while wrestling with somebody appears to dispel that notion.