Video posted to social media has triggered accusations of racial profiling after a man recorded his traffic stop encounter in Costa Mesa.
The driver alleges an Orange County police officer was using racial profiling and discrimination to harass him.
The incident happened last Tuesday as a 22-year-old University of California Berkeley student was pulled over while leaving the South Coast Plaza shopping mall in Costa Mesa.
The student, Abdullahi Aden, was initially pulled over for tinted windows before the encounter with the Costa Mesa police officer escalated.
Video posted on TikTok shows the conversation as Aden tells the officer he doesn’t have the right to search his vehicle just because he didn’t have his driver’s license on him.
As the video continues, Aden says, “I studied at the number one public university though.”
To which the officer replies, “What, prison?”
“As soon as I said university, he said, ‘What, prison?’ twice,” recalled Aden. “He told me, ‘Where’s your license?’ I told him I don’t have my physical license on me. I do have my driver’s license number memorized, but then he just began looking through the car with his flashlight,” said Aden.
Aden said the officer’s conduct reflects racial profiling after he approached him and insisted on searching his vehicle without grounds.
“He just sees a black kid in the car in Costa Mesa at the mall, and he thinks, ‘This kid is up to trouble,’” said Aden.
“These comments were at best racially insensitive, at worst, they were racism,” said Alison Triessl, KTLA’s legal analyst.
Triessl points to a recent Supreme Court case that disputes the officer’s claim.
“The officer in this case was wrong,” said Triessl. “He did not have a right to search this driver’s vehicle because he did not have his driver’s license. That’s simply not the law in the state of California.”
The Costa Mesa Police Department has launched an internal investigation into the incident saying in a statement, “We are committed to protecting and serving our community fairly and with empathy. We want to ensure our community that we take these matters seriously.”
“I’m not anti-cop,” said Aden. “The issue is the cops are not looking at us like humans.”
Following Aden’s exchange with the officer, he was given a fix-it ticket for his tinted windows. Aden said he was told the officer involved has since been placed on administrative leave.