Video of an encounter that led to a racial bias lawsuit against the Atascadero Police Department in California has been released.
In response to an open records request filed earlier this year, the roughly three-minute-long video was made public just this morning.
In the video, Corporal Rochelle Hanson, who is white, can be seen questioning Kyle Bell, who is black, about what he’s doing while standing outside of his parked sport utility vehicle.
The video begins with Hanson driving towards Bell. The first 40 seconds–including the initial encounter between the two–don’t contain audio. Sound comes in as Hanson asks Bell, “Is that your wife?” Bell nods in affirmation. Hanson then says, “Okay. You got a kiddo in the back?” Bell nods again.
The scene then unfolds:
Hanson: Okay. You’re just standing outside to smoke or?
Bell: [Raises his cigarette and nods]
Hanson: Okay. Can you tell her to roll her window down so I can make sure she’s good?
Bell: What’s the issue?
Hanson: I just want to make sure that everything’s okay. It’s just a little weird, so…
Hanson waves her hands at Bell all the while. She ends her explanation with her palms outstretched in his direction, seemingly as if in expectation that Bell should be or soon will be complying with the officer’s request. He doesn’t immediately comply but instead explains that he just left Morro Bay with his family and pulled over to smoke before the long ride home on the freeway.
Hanson listens to Bell’s story and then starts in again. She says, “Okay, can you have her open the door really quick?” Again, Bell asks why. Hanson says, “I just explained why.” Sensing that his questions aren’t getting their point across, Bell says, “But what’s the reason? We’re good. We’re fine.”
Hanson continues to elucidate her request. She replies, “It’s just a little odd. You’ve got all the windows up. She sitting and you’re standing outside her closed door with the window up.” Bell then explains that he doesn’t want to smoke in the car and turns away.
That was apparently too much for Hanson. She climbs back into her car, muttering, “If you want to be a [expletive deleted] jerk about it…” She then speeds down and out of a parking garage and saddles up behind Bell, calling in the encounter as she does so.
Hanson pulls up behind Bell’s sport utility vehicle and exits. She then accosts Bell and his wife, reiterating her position and then explaining that she didn’t initially see Bell smoking. Bell’s wife insists that everything is fine and Rochelle walks away, checking into dispatch.
The incident occurred on October 21, 2016. Later that same day Bell returned home, filed a complaint and hired an attorney.
A lawsuit alleging Hanson acted with racially discriminatory motivation during the stop was filed in July of this year, according to The Tribune.
That lawsuit alleges that the Atascadero Police Department “engaged in a pattern of systematic deprivation of the constitutional rights of African American citizens and other persons of color.” Bell is seeking various damages in excess of $25,000, an injunction against the police department conducting racially-motivated stops in the future and the institution of a court-ordered official to implement new policies for the department.
In response, Chief of Police Jerel Haley said, “the video speaks for itself.”
[image via screengrab]