In the midst of inflamed Black Lives Matters’ protests across the country, one man is pursuing his own demonstration against the Florissant Police Department for what he believes was racial profiling. Unfortunately, he may have a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision working against him.
On June 26, Tranell Stewart, 36, was pulled over by white Florissant police officer Dustin Edwards. Stewart, who is black, said he was flagged by Edwards, who has served on the force for just one year, after they encountered each other inside a Motel 6 lobby in Florissant.
“As I walk in, he’s getting ready to come out. He holds the door for me to go in. So he knows I’ve been to that establishment. He knows that I wasn’t there loitering,” Stewart told The American. “As soon as I leave, he pulls me over immediately.”
Stewart said he asked Edwards why he was pulled over. According to Stewart, Edwards said no law was broken and that he just wanted to assess Stewart.
Stewart asked Edwards to call a supervisor and refused to show his identification.
“I said, ‘Officer, you do not pull no one over to check them out. You’re violating my rights, and that’s not right,” Stewart recalled himself saying.
However, a new U.S. Supreme Court ruling complicated his complaint. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling in the Utah v Strieff case. In a 5 to 3 vote, the court went in favor of Utah police, who pulled over Edward Strieff for no reason other than he had just left a suspected drug house. During the stop, police found that Strieff had a warrant for a traffic violation and was in possession of narcotics and drug paraphernalia.
“This case allows the police to stop you on the street, demand your identification, and check it for outstanding traffic warrants – even if you are doing nothing wrong,” Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in scathing dissent.
Just like Strieff, Stewart was arrested and charged. He received a summons for possession of a small amount of marijuana, drug paraphernalia, loitering and not wearing a seat belt. He has a court date on August 3 for these new charges.
According to Florissant Police public relations officer Craig DeHart, the Motel 6 where Stewart was sighted is surrounded by a lot of criminal activity and Edwards “observed Stewart acting suspiciously.”
And, cross-referencing the license plate of Stewart’s vehicle, Edwards found out Stewart had a felony drug warrant in St. Louis County, DeHart told The American.
Stewart claimed that when backup finally arrived at the scene, he was yanked aggressively from his vehicle by Edwards and was never read his rights. DeHart said Florissant did not hold Stewart or make him post a bond. Stewart was taken into St. Louis County Police custody for his warrant.
Florissant, which borders Ferguson, is the largest municipality in St. Louis County, with a population of over 52,000 residents, according to the 2010 census. While not as notorious as its neighbor Ferguson, Stewart’s is not the first complaint against the department.
In 2014, Joy Reynold filed a federal lawsuit against the Florissant Police Department for violating her civil rights and using excessive force. In March 2014, Reynolds was arrested by then-Florissant Police Officer Kevin Feldman for an outdated warrant stemming from an incomplete payment of a “defective muffler” fine, The Riverfront Times reported. While in custody, Reynolds was seen (in a disturbing video) being slammed into a wall and then onto the floor after grabbing her cellphone from a desk. The case surrounding the lawsuit is still under review.
Florissant’s Police Department, which has 88 full-time officers, prides itself on its community engagement relations, according to Dehart. The police department has partnered with churches, hosted community kickball and volleyball games for youth, and started a mentor program.
“Our officers go through bias police training every year,” DeHart told The American. “We try to get out there and do the right thing. We are engaged in our community.”
Source: St. Louis American | Mariah Stewart