The San Francisco Police Department says it’s investigating a Thursday night incident in which one of its off-duty officers was allegedly roughed up during an arrest by three other officers in the Bayview District.
The Rev. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the NAACP, said the three arresting officers were white–a detail the Police Department would not confirm Friday afternoon. He condemned the episode as racial profiling and demanded Mayor Ed Lee and other city leaders launch an investigation.
The incident, which police say is under investigation by the department’s Internal Affairs Division, involved Officer Lorenzo Adamson Jr., a 15-year veteran officer. A department spokesperson who declined to be recorded for broadcast or to be quoted by name told KQED reporter Charla Bear that Adamson was pulled over at about 8:20 p.m. Thursday near Third Street and Newcomb Avenue in the Bayview neighborhood. The spokesperson said two officers made the initial stop because Adamson was driving a car with no license plates and because the vehicle had dark-tinted front passenger’s and driver’s windows.
The spokesperson said Adamson carried no personal identification, was in possession of a firearm, and became “non-compliant” after the stop. “Apparently Officer Adamson is a very large male,” the spokesperson said, “and when he became non-compliant and it deteriorated into a physical altercation, those two officers were unable to handcuff and detain Officer Adamson, so they requested additional units to come and assist.” The spokesperson said Adamson didn’t identify himself as a police officer until after he was in the midst of a struggle with the arresting officers.
Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, who has specialized in police use-of-force cases, confirmed to KQED News that he is representing Adamson and says his client was “wrongfully beaten up” by the arresting officers.
The NAACP’s Brown said the incident was a clear case of profiling because as soon as officers stopped Adamson, one of them asked whether he was on parole. “That is the stereotypical image that unfortunately in this nation is held of black men,” Brown said. “… What this officer was doing was reflecting the mentality and attitude that all black men are ex-offenders, on probation, or potential perpetrators of crime. This must stop.”
Brown also suggested that asking Adamson whether he was on parole was a violation of San Francisco Police Department rules. But the department spokesperson–again, he wouldn’t be quoted by name–said it is “common” for officers to ask subjects they approach whether they are on probation or parole; if they are on parole or probation, then the ground rules for searches and seizures change, he said. He added that the department leaves it to officers’ discretion whether to make the inquiry.
The incident has the potential to renew a controversy over a disparity in arrest rates by race in the city.
According to a study published in August 2012 by Shoshana Walter of the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), African-Americans are at least seven times more likely to be arrested than whites in San Francisco.
The gap between the arrest rates for whites and African Americans in San Francisco is well above state and national averages, the CIR analysis found.