Family Says Harassment At Traffic Stop Racially Motivated
CHICAGO (CBS 2) – A west-suburban family says they were racially profiled and harassed during a 2009 traffic stop. They gave CBS 2’s Dave Savini a videotape from a police dashboard camera and the family says it shows their civil rights were violated.
Sherida Hughes, who is African-American, was driving the vehicle filled with family members from a relatives party in the Village of Montgomery. She says a white police officers followed her into a gas station, waited for her passenger to pump the gas and pay for it, then continued to follow them as they continued down the road. When the speed limit dropped from 55 to 45, Hughes says the officers pulled her over and told her she was speeding.
“I said there’s no way that I was doing 57 in a 45,” said Hughes who added that her response angered the officer. “(He) Started to make threats.”
She says she turned over her license, but instead of writing the ticket, the officer called for backup and eight officers responded to the scene. The scared family refused to get out of their minivan. Months later, when the dashboard video surfaced, Hughes finally heard audio that she believes backs up her misconduct allegation.
On the edited tape given to CBS from Hughes, an officer is heard saying, “They’re really pissing me off man”. Hughes says officers are also heard talking about breaking the car windows to force the family out.
Here is more from the tape:
“I was gonna spray in there.”
“Can easily pop that window open real quick.”
“Reach in, grab them by the head.”
Hughes says she was hurt by the way other officers are heard laughing about the comments on the tape.
“What if someone’s life is in danger in there?” then laughter was heard on the tape.
George Taylor, who was a passenger, says officers got angry when he called a family member during the stop to say they were being racially profiled.
“Everybody was terrified,” said Taylor.
“The kids were crying,” said Hughes who called 911 from the car. “Because we didn’t do anything wrong. Who knows how far they were willing to take it.”
After an hour and forty-five minutes, Hughes was given a speeding ticket and was allowed to drive away. She says that is when a racially charged statement was made that included swearing and the n-word.
“‘a bunch of f… n….’, that’s what they called us, said Hughes who said they then began laughing.
The tape then apparently has an officer talking to another: “Don’t worry,” said the officer. “You’ll, you’ll, you’ll, you’ll make up for it next time.”
The next day, Hughes filed a complaint with Montgomery Police. Nothing came of that. Two months later, Hughes was arrested for obstructing a police officer, but that charge was thrown out when the dashboard video surfaced. Now, Sherida Hughes is suing the department.
An attorney for Montgomery Police say the officers absolutely deny using the n-word, or any racial epithet, and they followed traffic procedures and policies.