Barstow Police

Two police officers in Barstow were the subject Thursday of an internal police investigation after video surfaced of a skirmish and arrest of a woman who was eight months’ pregnant.

By Veronica Rocha
May 29, 2015

Moments after she refused to identify herself to a Barstow police officer, Charlena Cooks, then eight months pregnant, found herself on the ground in handcuffs.

“Do not touch me,” she screamed in a video recording of the incident. “I am pregnant.”

As allegations of police overreach draw national attention, the video — captured on an officer’s body camera — along with a similar Barstow case involving two brothers who refused to show ID, raise questions about when police in California are entitled to ask for identification and when people can refuse to provide it. Civil rights advocates argue that police can’t force individuals to identify themselves without reason. Law enforcement groups, however, contend that officers investigating a potential crime can require identification.

The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws that make it a crime to refuse to identify oneself when police ask. But California has no such law.

The ACLU of Southern California released the video of Cooks’ arrest last week. The release came on the heels of a settlement in a separate case against the city of Barstow involving questions over identification. In that case, two brothers were arrested for resisting a police officer last year after refusing to identify themselves.

In a statement Friday, Barstow spokesman Anthony Riley defended Cooks’ arrest, saying that she “actively resisted arrest.” A judge dismissed the charges against Cooks.

Riley also rejected an ACLU attorney’s suggestion that the arrest of Cooks, who is black, was racially motivated.

“The Barstow Police Department continues to be proactive in training its officers to assess and handle interactions with emotionally charged individuals while conducting an investigation, for the protection of everyone involved,” he said.

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