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DRIVING WHILE BLACK: CBS3 Staff Share Their Stories Of Being Racially Profiled By Police During Traffic Stops

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Watch the four-part series on CBSPhilly.com

Video Transcript

KIMBERLY DAVIS: Good afternoon. I'm Kimberly Davis. In our last hour, we told you about the conversation, a conversation that is not foreign to African-American families, a conversation brought on by fear from our past, present, and what could happen. In this hour, we sit down with my colleagues and talk about their interactions with police officers that have had them fearing for their lives simply because of the color of their skin. We take you through those experiences and put you in their shoes so you can see how they felt.

UKEE WASHINGTON: I have never been more frightened in my life on that day.

DON BELL: You're always worried because you know that your skin is a target.

SAMUEL GARDNER III: They made us feel like criminals, and we hadn't even done anything wrong.

TAURIN GORDON: You know that they're going to be on you in a different way.

UKEE WASHINGTON: June 9th, I remember the day clearly, June 9, 2020. I was coming from my father's home in Virginia to a small town in Virginia, a very small town.

AL SHARPTON: Until we know the price for Black life is the same as the price for white life, we're going to keep coming back to these situations over and over again.

UKEE WASHINGTON: Listening to Reverend Al Sharpton and remembering what had happened when George Floyd was murdered, what had happened as a reaction from Black and white all across the country, that was flowing through my body at the time. So I may have been going a little bit too fast through this little small town. I saw the red lights. And when I looked in my side view mirror, I saw a white police officer, short, well stocky, goaty, and everything went through my mind. I didn't know a thing about this officer coming up on me. He didn't know a thing about me. He sees a Black man in an SUV in a small town.

I had so many thoughts going in and out of-- in and out of my mind. Is this guy going to pull me out of the car without asking questions? Was he going to throw me up against the car? Was he going to put his knee on my neck? I had so many things going through my mind.

He comes up to the car. I did what my dad said. Mind you, I'm terrified because of everything is going on. I do what my dad said. Had it ready. He comes up to me. And before he got a word out of his mouth, he saw my hands, handed it to him. Yes, officer, that's the first thing I said.

And then I started a conversation with him. I told him, I don't know what I did officer. I was probably going too fast, but I'm listening to the funeral of George Floyd and Reverend Al Sharpton. I just put that out there. That might be the nature of my business. I start to talk, and I want to get his mind off of whatever might be on his mind that I don't know about.

We ended up talking about family. Long story short, he gave me back my license and registration. He just gave me a verbal warning. And I told him I was listening to Reverend Al Sharpton before. We ended the conversation, he actually said, here you are, sir. Enjoy your-- he said, enjoy your preacher-- in a southern accent-- enjoy your preacher and be careful.

But something, when I heard that that southern accent, I don't know if I was being-- if I was racial profiling or not, but something about that southern accent coming from him, I didn't know if he was serious or not I didn't know, but he let me go. I thought about that all the way home.

DON BELL: There was a wedding rehearsal for my brother's wedding. And we were in North Jersey, in North Jersey, around Hoboken. And we were on our way. And we were at a stop sign. There are two trucks in front of us. And one of them was aggressively beeping, beeping his horn for the next truck to go.

And there was a cop who aggressively approached our car, even though we were not doing any beeping, had us roll down the window, and was beyond aggressive with us, and came right up to the window, and leaned in, and was shouting at us. And it was escalating. We didn't say anything. Sean, my brother, just said, that wasn't me. I didn't-- I didn't beep.

And just as things were escalating, what the cop didn't know is that my girlfriend was in the backseat. And she stuck her head out. And she said, they didn't do anything, what's your problem? Well, my girlfriend is white. And you know, it just alarmed this officer to the point there was a complete switch in his attitude and the way that he addressed us.

And he just calmly fell back. We proceeded to drive on. But the three of us, we all felt that that was going to go another way had that not happened. I'll never forget that moment in my life. Neither one of us will because we both feel in our hearts that that was going in a way that that was not going to be good for us in any way.

SAMUEL GARDNER III: Well, I remember being in college. I was 18. And I was with one of my best friends. And so his parents had just bought him a new car. Probably three or four miles from my house, Los Angeles Police Department pulled us over. And as soon as they pulled us over, it was like, they pulled us over, and we look, and are like, what are you guys doing? We're just taking the drive. Are you involved in gangs? Do you have any drugs in your car, any weapons? No, sir, and respectful. They immediately said, get out of the car.

We got out of the car. They sat us on the curb. And they made us put our hands like this, our hands are visible. And they started searching through the car. Needless to say, people were driving by, honking their horns, laughing, and pointing at us. And they made us feel like criminals, and we hadn't even done anything wrong.

TAURIN GORDON: In Maryland, at a traffic light, light turns green, pull off. I get pulled over before I get to the next light. I go through my procedure. Cop comes up. License and registration, here you go, and proceed to tell me that it looked like I was enjoying my music too much. Why am I being pulled over because I'm enjoying my music too much? Or is it just because I'm a young Black man in the BMW?

JAMES WARD: I was in the [INAUDIBLE] Group, and we got an advance. And so I used that money to go buy-- it was a BMW 1991 318is. I go to the house. And I entered in. And I tell my mom, can you come out? Let's look at my new car I just got. Before we can get to the door, I'm getting a knock on my door. I walked outside. And we open the door, and there's a police there.

And I'm like, OK, how can we help you? And he's like, are you the owner of that BMW? And I said, yeah, I just got that. Well, we were told that you were driving erratic. And I said, that can't be true. I only live two miles. Seeing a young teenager with his hat on backwards, driving a brand new BMW, I guess, brought suspect. Why is he going in this neighborhood with this car?

SUTTON SINCLAIR: I remember driving back to campus. Fire truck drives by. So I stopped. And there was a police car behind him. And I thought it was with the fire truck. The cop car didn't have the sirens on. I made eye contact with the officer. It was just a very uneasy look, and all my friends are also Black. And they're like, hey, you know, let's take the next couple of turns slow back to campus. I'm like, yeah, I'm right there with you. I pulled out my wallet, put my registration on in the visor.

And as it's turning green, I just make one more look in the mirror, and I see the cop making a U-turn. Two minutes away from campus by this point, and he turns on the light. So he was tailing us for a solid 15 minutes. They notified the school that I made a turn without putting my signal on. He kind of like pulled us over for no reason, you know? Like, he really didn't have a reason to pull us over. I was just ashamed that it like, we had to go through that, you know? Like, we just felt like there was this thing hovering over our shoulder-- our shoulders.

JAMES WARD: Not all cops are bad apples, but there are some that are bad apples out there. And for those who say that there aren't, you know, they just haven't been in my skin, they haven't been in my shoes, but really my skin to experience that. It's real.

KIMBERLY DAVIS: To be clear, this is not a story about bashing the police. The police are extremely important with a difficult job to do. We actually sat down with Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw who happens to have two Black sons. She talked with us about the ongoing conversation she has in her household. But coming up in our next hour, we continue to speak with my colleagues who tell us what they think needs to change in order for us to stop having this conversation. Ukee.

- Kimberly, thank you. Don Bell joins me now. Don, your story with our colleagues, very powerful on this day as we reflect on the life of George Floyd and policing and racism in America. Why was it important to you to join this conversation to tell your truth?

DON BELL: Yeah, Ukee, I don't think it's-- it certainly was easy to flashback to that story and tell it. You feel in some ways a shame that that happened to you, so it's hard to discuss. But I think that when you have an opportunity to put it out in this forum, it's important. It's important for people to experience what you experienced. And really just kind of-- Ukee, I want to say this.

Everybody who was in that piece, I know each and every one of you, every one of them. And it's not like we have a Black man convention in the cafeteria here at CBS 3 and talk about these things. So I had never heard any of these stories before. But to sit here and watch it in edited form, stories back to back to back, I'm not going to lie. I mean, I feel something right now. I'm not quite sure what it is. It's difficult for me to explain it and pinpoint it. But I'm a little shaken right now seeing and hearing from my colleagues and people I know hearing that everybody had to go through that in some way, shape, or form.

- And I'm going to follow up by saying, it's a powerful thing and even more powerful as you say when it hits home. And I'm going to call them out in a good way. Our floor director Phil, who's a grown white male, and Jessica, were in tears. It hit home in our first hour, and probably then as well. They felt it.

And when it comes to race relations, this could spur a powerful talk they could have with their young sons, a conversation, education, awareness. That's needed right now. Thank you all. [? DB, ?] we'll get back to you. We want to hear about your experiences.

What was the conversation like if you had it? Join our conversation on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. You can also watch all of the stories in this series at cbsphilly.com and on CBSN Philly.