On April 9, a federal jury in Sacramento has ordered West Sacramento to pay damages to two sisters from Ghana who were handcuffed during a traffic stop.
Jurors declined to order punitive damages, The Sacramento Bee reported. They ordered $11,700 in compensatory damages to Karene Beecham, who was driving the car, and $21,700 to her sister, Karena Crankson. Because U.S. District Judge John A. Mendez, in an unusual move, found that the sisters’ constitutional rights were violated, the jury only had to consider whether they were entitled to damages and how much.
The sisters, with their two young children in the car, were on a sightseeing trip when they were pulled over in 2006 for making a lane change without signaling. Officer Timothy Twardosz, who made the stop, sent a radio message suggesting that the sisters were high-risk, resulting in the arrival of three other officers.
Thethree other officers arrived at the scene in separate cars. With guns drawn, all four officers ordered the women out of their car. One officer had an assault rifle. Another had a pistol in one hand and a leashed police dog in the other. The two women were ordered to lift their shirts to show they were not armed, then handcuffed and placed in the back of separate police vehicles for about 30 minutes.
Beecham and Crankson were detained in the backs of police cars for about half an hour before Beecham was given a ticket and they were allowed to drive off.
The officers were not charged with racial discrimination, but that’s the obvious subtext of this event. The attorney for the detained and humiliated women says such a charge is almost impossible to prove. Still, if these sightseers had been from Sweden instead of Africa, it’s hard to believe that they would have been subjected to such outrageous police behavior.
The sisters’ attorney will ask the court to issue an injunction against West Sacramento to stop using the policies currently in place for these kind of traffic stops.
This incident, although not a common occurence, points out how drivers can suffer one type of personal injury that does not require a physical injury.
For more information you are welcome to contact Sacramento personal injury lawyer, Moseley Collins.