By AFRO Staff
Students and administration of Delaware State University (DSU) are calling a foul after the bus transporting the DSU Lacrosse Team was pulled over and searched by law enforcement in Liberty County, Ga. on April 20.
According to a statement released by Delaware State University President Tony Allen, the bus was allegedly pulled over for a “minor traffic violation” that quickly escalated into trained drug dogs searching the lacrosse players’ luggage on the side of the road.
“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,” 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.”
Sheriff William Bowman, of Liberty County, G.a. made a comment on the situation after Sydney Anderson – a DSU Sophomore lacrosse player who was present for the altercation, wrote an article that ran in the DSU newspaper, The Hornet.
“Since May 9, I have taken calls, received messages, and read comments concerning a traffic stop within our county,” said Bowman in a statement to the press. “On April 20, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office initiated a traffic stop for a motorcoach vehicle traveling Northbound on I-95 in violation of O.C.G.A. 40-6-53 (2010).”
According to the Georgia Department of Driver Services, a violation of O.C.G.A. 40-6-53 (2010) is a “failure to keep in proper lane,” as buses are required to use the two outermost right lanes of a highway.
Georgia Traffic Code specifies that “on roads, streets, or highways with three or more lanes allowing for movement in the same direction, it shall be unlawful for any bus or motorcoach to operate in any lanes other than the two most right-hand lanes, except when the bus or motorcoach is preparing for a left turn, is moving to or from an HOV lane.”
Bowman said that the DSU bus was not the only commercial vehicle that was stopped on April 20, and that contraband had been found earlier in the day on a bus.
“Due to the nature of the detail, a K9 was part of the stop and an alert was given by the K9. Before entering the motorcoach, the deputy was not aware that this school was historically Black or aware of the race of the occupants due to the height of the vehicle and tinted windows,” said Bowman. “A canine sniff of the exterior of a vehicle is not a search under the Fourth Amendment and does provide cause to search the vehicle.”
Bowman said “once aboard, the deputies informed the passengers that a search would be completed. This is the same protocol that is expected to be used no matter the race, gender, age, or destination of the passengers.”
Though Bowman told the public “no personal items on the bus or any person were searched,” a photo taken Anderson shows an officer smiling as he handles a backpack on the side of the road.
“The team members were in shock, as they witnessed the officers rambling through their bags. They brought the K-9 dog out to sniff their luggage,” said Anderson. “The cops began tossing underwear and other feminine products, in an attempt to locate narcotics.”
Democratic Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons, and its representative, Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester (all D-Del.), have responded to the incident.
“No one should be made to feel unsafe or humiliated by law enforcement or any entity who has sworn to protect and serve them. 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,” said the elected officials in a joint statement. “We strongly support Dr. Allen’s decision to ‘go wherever the evidence leads him and his administration as they explore all possible options in response. Our offices stand ready to assist the Delaware State community however we can as it deals with the impact of this episode, and hope there will be a swift, just resolution.”
According to Bowman, the stop was legal. The sheriff has said that he does not “exercise racial profiling, allow racial profiling, or encourage racial profiling” and did not even know the DSU incident was being considered “racial profiling” until he began receiving calls about the incident.
“We want feedback from the passengers of the Delaware State University Lacrosse Team on what communication approaches can be considered that we simply may not be aware of,” said Bowman. “This is how true policing is done and this is what the department stands for under my leadership.”
Please use the feedback link at www.LibertySO.Org to share your solutions with Liberty County Sheriff’s Office.
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