Routine search ‘shattered’ the ’emotional security’ of college students
Delaware State University wants the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate a Georgia law enforcement agency that stopped DSU’s women’s lacrosse team bus for a traffic violation as it traveled through the Peach State.
However, the DOJ refused to tell The College Fix if it would open an investigation in response to the complaint, filed May 18.
“The department is declining to comment at this time,” spokesperson Aryele Bradford told The Fix on June 23.
Bill Kirkendall, a major in the sheriff’s office who runs the Bureau of Professional Standards, did not respond to an email from The Fix on June 28 that asked if the sheriffs had heard anything further from the Justice Department.
The May 18 complaint asks the feds to investigate whether the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office violated the Title VI rights of the historically black college’s lacrosse team when it searched the travel bus in April.
Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman (pictured) is black. A previous stop that morning did find “contraband,” according to the sheriff’s office.
The letter stated:
On April 20, , 25 students with the University’s Women’s Lacrosse Team, along with two coaches and one athletic trainer, were traveling by charter bus back to Delaware from a tournament in Florida. The majority of those passengers were Black as was the bus driver who has been driving buses for 21 years. The passengers’ windows were tinted; however, the driver’s window was not. .
The emotional “security” of DSU “was shattered when Liberty County, Georgia Sheriff’s Deputies illegally pulled over the charter bus in which our female lacrosse team members and their coaches were riding.” The sheriff deputies did this “to conduct an improper search of their personal belongings without consent, without probable cause, and without even articulable suspicion.”
No charges were filed against any member of the team nor the bus driver. The deputies pulled the bus over for traveling in a lane that is off-limits to trucks, though there’s a dispute over whether the law applies to buses. The sheriff deputy who pulled over the driver said the law applies to any vehicle with more than six wheels.
University officials said they “are deeply disturbed by the manner in which our students, staff, and bus driver were treated by law enforcement.”
Del State seeks “a full, fair, and unbiased investigation into the Title VI and Civil Rights violations that were clearly committed.” Their letter also listed other alleged violations of the law.
The College Fix reached out to Pamella Jenkins, the head coach and diversity and inclusion designee for the DSU women’s lacrosse team, for comment. The Fix inquired into her interpretation of the bus search and her hopes for the outcome of the Title VI complaint.
Jenkins has not responded to the initial email or an additional follow-up sent in the past week.
The Fix also reached out to the Athletic Director Alecia Shields-Gadson to ask what steps her office plans to take regarding the complaint and future prevention of such incidents. She did not respond to the initial email or a follow-up in the past week.
The Liberty County Sheriff’s Office has asked for feedback from the DSU women’s lacrosse team passengers on how communication can be improved in the future. It also states that the stop is being “formally reviewed to ensure there were no policy violations and applicable law was followed.”
“At the time, or even in the weeks following, we were not aware that this stop was received as racial profiling,” Sheriff Bowman wrote in a statement. Bowman stated he did not believe racial profiling occurred but said he “welcome[d] feedback from our community” on how “law enforcement practices can be improved while still maintaining the law.”
IMAGE: Liberty County Sheriff’s Office