A traffic stop in April involving Georgia police officers left some Delaware State women’s lacrosse team members traumatized and the school president “incensed.”
According to Sydney Anderson, a Hornets lacrosse player who wrote about the encounter for the school’s newspaper, the team was traveling through the state on April 20, returning home after a game against Stetson University. Police stopped their charter bus and claimed the bus had committed a traffic violation. But then, police began going through the players’ luggage, claiming to be looking for narcotics.
“To be clear, nothing illegal was discovered in this search, and all our coaches and student-athletes comported themselves with dignity throughout a trying and humiliating process,” university president Tony Allen said in a statement. “Our student-athletes, coaches, and the subcontracted bus driver are all safe. I have spoken with many of them, and in the course of investigating this incident in conjunction with our General Counsel and Athletic Director, I have also reached out to Delaware’s Governor, Congressional delegation, Attorney General, and Black Caucus. They, like me, are incensed.”
Delaware State is a historically Black university, and most of the players on the bus were Black, per USA Today. All the officers seen in photos and videos of the incident were white.
Tim Jones, the bus driver, who is Black, was pulled over by Liberty County Sheriff deputies because buses are not allowed to drive in the left lane of Interstate Highway 95. Officers then informed the student-athletes that they would be searching their personal belongings for drugs such as marijuana, heroin and ketamine, per Anderson.
“If there is anything in y’all’s luggage, we’re probably gonna find it,” one police officer said in a video taken by a DSU player. “If there is something in there that is questionable, please tell me now because if we find it, guess what? We’re not gonna be able to help.”
The officer then reminded the team that marijuana is still illegal in the state of Georgia, including electronic devices. The officer also said they were looking for anything that could weigh it “like a set of scales.” According to Anderson, the team said they did not have any narcotics, but the officers still decided to check their baggage and instructed Jones to open the bus’s trunk.
Scroll to Continue
Delaware State head coach Pamella Jenkins told USA Today the ordeal lasted between 30 and 45 minutes. Per Anderson, every time the players would look toward the search, more officers would appear. Police also used drug-sniffing dogs throughout the process. Officers told the athletes that the search was necessary “in case of child trafficking or drugs.”
“I think the biggest surprise was seeing the dogs immediately pulled out regardless of what the citation was going to be,” lacrosse player Emily Campanelli said. “That shows the immediate effects of driving while Black, especially through southern states and it makes you wonder how many people this happens to on a daily basis and how many people experience this worse than us. I truly believe that it was an illegal search and seizure because there was no probable cause to search the bags, there was no evidence or smell.
“He immediately saw a group of athletic girls teams and should have let us continue, but because the majority of the team are Black women it was a different result. It is a sad day we had to encounter, but I’m glad everyone came outside.”
The police did not seize anything during their search and did not issue Jones a citation. According to Anderson, a majority of the team has had an encounter with law enforcement, making the experience “a traumatic incident.” In a joint statement given to USA Today, Delaware U.S. Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons and U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester condemned the actions of the officers.
“No one should be made to feel unsafe or humiliated by law enforcement or any entity who has sworn to protect and serve them,” the statement said. “That’s especially true for students who have sought out HBCUs like Delaware State University with a long history of empowering communities of color that have far too often faced discrimination and other barriers to opportunity.”
Allen said the university intends to continue exploring legal recourse for the athletes and others involved. The encounter with police comes after a number of HBCUs have received bomb threats in recent months.
“We do not intend to let this or any other incident like it pass idly by,” Allen said in the statement. “We are prepared to go wherever the evidence leads us. We have video. We have allies. Perhaps more significantly, we have the courage of our convictions.”
#Delaware #State #President #Shares #Statement #Lacrosse #Team #Georgia #Police #Incident