A California man who was jailed for 12 hours for refusing to identify himself was awarded a $60,000 settlement earlier this month.
Robert Mitchell was a passenger in a car with three other black males when it was pulled over by Bakersfield police for the dubious reason of having an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror back on March 17, 2017.
Police also said the car’s tires were bald and that it “had come to a rest in the turn lane with its wheels touching the dividing line,” according to the Bakersfield Californian.
Mitchell, who began recording, refused to identify himself because the cop was unable to articulate if he was suspected of committing crime.
Instead, the cops lied, claiming that because he was a passenger in a vehicle they had pulled over, he therefore was being detained and was required to identify himself.
Mitchell finally did identify himself after the cops threatened to impound his friend’s car but he was jailed anyway on a charge of obstruction, which was never officially filed.
The lawsuit, which you can read here, states the cops violated Mitchell’s First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.
The lawsuit also states that it is not illegal in California to have air fresheners hanging from rear view mirrors and that not only were the tires of the car not bald, it would have been impossible for the cops to notice if they were from their vantage point.
But it’s nothing new for the Bakersfield Police Department, according to the lawsuit:
On information and belief, the City, through the Bakersfield Police Department, maintains an unlawful policy, custom, or practice of requiring individuals detained by police to identify themselves and arresting individuals who decline to answer questions about their identity. This unlawful policy, custom, or practice is reinforced by the Bakersfield Police Department’s supervision and, on information and belief, its training.
The arresting officers were Ronnie Jeffries, John Bishop and a sergeant named Sherman whose first name is unknown.