An attorney for an off-duty San Francisco police officer who was pulled over and allegedly harassed by other officers in the city’s Bayview District last week said Tuesday that the incident is “quite disturbing” and an example of racial profiling.
Civil rights lawyer John Burris said it was appropriate for the other officers to stop off-duty Officer Lorenzo Adamson, who has been on disability for back problems for several months, at the corner of Third Street and Newcomb Avenue at about 8:20 p.m. on Thursday because his license plate on his car wasn’t visible, although he had it inside his car.
But Burris said it was wrong that the first question that the officers, who are white, asked of Adamson, who is black, was whether he was on probation or parole.
“That assumes that everyone in the Bayview community is on probation and parole and it makes the community’s constitutional rights diminished,” Burris said at a news conference at his office in Oakland.
Burris said it’s “troubling” that the officer who asked Adamson if he’s on probation or parole was a training officer who was working with two rookie officers because it sets a bad example for them.
The attorney said the officers should have just asked Adamson for his identification and said Adamson had his driver’s license and proof of insurance.
Adamson also had his license plate inside his car but it wasn’t visible because he had problems mounting it, Burris said.
He said that after Adamson told the officers that asking if he was on probation or parole “is not the question you ask,” they wrestled him to the ground and had him handcuffed and detained.
At that point, Adamson told the officers that he was a police officer and had a gun, Burris said.
Adamson “never had an opportunity” at the beginning of the incident to tell the other officers that he was an officer “because he was attacked,” Burris said.
The three officers called for backup from other officers when they saw Adamson’s gun and the officers who responded recognized Adamson as a fellow officer, Burris said.
“It was one of those ‘oh’ moments,” he said.
Adamson was taken to a police station and then to a local hospital, where he was treated for an aggravation of his back injury and a minor head injury and then released, Burris said.
The attorney said he thinks it’s “scandalous and outrageous” that Adamson has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of resisting arrest and two infractions for not displaying a license plate and for having tinted windows.
Burris said he thinks Adamson was charged only because police are trying to justify their actions.
Burris said at this point he’s focusing on fighting Adamson’s criminal charges and after those are resolved he will “consider what civil rights violations might have occurred,” such as using excessive force.
A San Francisco police spokesman declined to comment on the incident Tuesday, saying it is “a personnel matter” that is in the criminal courts and could result in litigation.
On Friday, San Francisco police Cmdr. Charlie Orkes said the department will conduct a thorough and comprehensive investigation into the incident.
Joining Burris at the news conference, The Rev. Dr. Amos Brown, president of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the treatment of Adamson during the traffic stop is “an insult against the black community of San Francisco.”
Brown said the incident “reflects that something is rotten in the San Francisco Police Department.”
Burris said Adamson “is disturbed by this incident because he loves the Police Department” and wants to continue working as an officer in San Francisco.
Adamson has been with the San Francisco Police Department for 15 years and has worked in the Bayview District for several years, Burris said.
He said Adamson grew up in San Francisco but now lives outside the city.
Adamson decided not to attend the news conference because “he is not a public person” and the matter “has become more public than he would like,” Burris said.
He added that because Adamson faces criminal charges there also are “long-term ramifications for his career.”
Jeff Shuttleworth, Bay City News