Given the drumbeat of reports about overzealous cops harming suspects under dubious circumstances, one would think most police departments would want to avoid the appearance of racial profiling.
But not the Cal Expo Police Department.
On Monday, video emerged of officers brazenly hauling two teenagers out of the California State Fair on Friday night. The incidents, involving unrelated groups of friends, raises questions that need answers about how security is being handled at what’s supposed to be a family-oriented event.
In one video, officers can be seen grabbing 16-year-old Kasim Cooley by his backpack and leading him through the crowd of fairgoers to the gates. The Laguna Creek High School student says one officer was recording him with a hand-held camera.
In the other video, three officers are shown kneeling on 114-pound Shanita Minor. The black 17-year-old says she was standing near the carousel when officers approached and accused her of loitering. The situation escalated quickly, with police wrestling her to the ground and pulling out handcuffs.
“They told us to leave and I said we’re not leaving because we paid to be here,” said Minor, who ended up with a fractured thumb, a concussion and a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest.
Both teens insist they did nothing wrong and that they were targeted because of their race and because they were nearby when other teens were kicked out for fighting.
Fair officials, meanwhile, haven’t said much. And what they have said hasn’t made much sense.
On Monday, Margaret Mohr, the fair’s deputy general manager, told The Bee no one was arrested Friday and that she knew nothing of Cooley or Minor.
But she backtracked on Tuesday, saying officers removed as many as 60 people from the fairgrounds on Friday. Police also arrested three people – two adults and a juvenile – and broke up a fight in a parking lot, as well as near the fair’s midway. One officer broke her leg ejecting an unruly person.
This, at the State Fair.
Mohr has said that all fairgoers are expected to abide by a code of conduct because it is meant “for the safety of everyone” there. That’s understandable. Violence of any sort is unacceptable.
But loitering? “Loitering” is precisely what one is supposed to do at a fair.
State Fair officials must do a better job of telling the public exactly what qualifies as violating its code of conduct and making sure Cal Expo officers know, too. Enough with the ham-handed approach.