Coach at Delaware HBCU says Georgia deputies racially profiled team
Liberty County sheriff’s office is investigating the traffic stop
Credit: Photo Contributed
The Delaware State University women's lacrosse team was pulled over by Liberty County Sheriff's Office deputies during an April traffic stop. The team's coach said the deputies searched for drugs without probable cause and believes the search was racially motivated. The sheriff's office is investigating. Photo Credit: Delaware State University.
The coach of a women’s lacrosse team at a predominantlyBlack university in Delaware believes South Georgia deputies racially profiled her team during a recent traffic stop that is being investigated by local law enforcement and the school.
The Delaware State University lacrosse team bus was returning from Florida when it was pulled over on I-95 in Liberty County, head coach Pamella Jenkins said Monday in a telephone interview. Six white deputies and a police dog searched the bus for drugs — without probable cause — and found none, the coach said.
“(The deputy) quickly went to marijuana, which stereotypically is unfortunately associated with African Americans. That’s the first thing that he went to,” Jenkins said.
The sheriff’s office said its internal affairs officeis investigating the matter. Sheriff William Bowman, who is Black, bristled at concerns that race played a role in the search. He said his office will use videos and other information to “follow the facts” in its investigation.
“If anything is proven wrong, the appropriate actions will be taken,” Bowman said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Jenkins said she believes the deputies searched the bus because most of the players are Black. Delaware State is a historically Black university founded in 1891. About 60% of the university’s students are Black.
The university’s president, Tony Allen, posted a letter Monday saying he was “incensed” by the stop.
“We do not intend to let this or any other incident like it pass idly by. We are prepared to go wherever the evidence leads us. We have video. We have allies. Perhaps more significantly, we have the courage of our convictions.”
An incident occurred in Georgia when the Delaware State University Women’s Lacrosse Team was returning home from a game in Florida. Read a message from President Allen in which, again, he says, “We shall not be moved.” https://t.co/IihQ6yV3ptpic.twitter.com/RBC6jZF5C2
— Delaware State University (@DelStateUniv) May 9, 2022
The stop took place on April 20 at about 10:30 a.m., Jenkins said. The bus was pulled over for being in the left lane, the coach said. Jenkins said two deputies asked the driver for his license and registration, and to step out of the vehicle.
A video recorded by someone on the bus shows a deputy asking the team to tell them now if anyone has marijuana, devices to smoke or weigh it or other “questionable” items.
One student asked the deputies why they wanted to search the bus, Jenkins said. The deputy said that they frequently find drugs or human trafficking during traffic stops, the coach recalled.
“If there’s nothing, I’m thankful. That makes my life easier about getting this done and we’ll have you guys on your way,” a deputy said in the video.
As many as six deputies and a police dog searched the team’s luggage without their permission, Jenkins said. Nothing illegal was found, the coach said. The encounter took at least 30 minutes, Jenkins said. The students were silent afterwards.
“I think everyone was in shock that this happened,” Jenkins said.
There were 25 students on the bus at the time— many dressed in school gear,she said.
Jenkins said the team discussed the traffic stop a few days later. Some students said they were traumatized. The university’s student newspaper reported about the stop last week.
Jenkins said she wished the deputies apologized for the stop.
“I hope no one has to experience being accused of anything like that without probable cause,” she said.
Eric Stirgus joined The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2001. He is the newsroom's education editor. Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Eric is active in the Atlanta Association of Black Journalists and the Education Writers Association and enjoys mentoring aspiring journalists.