A few days ago, we mentioned the experience recounted by Branko Radulovacki, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, of his encounter with a law enforcement officer while driving with an aide. His apparent crime, “Dr. Rad” said, was “driving while black.” Here’s what Radulovacki told his supporters:
“That phrase — “driving while black” — had come up at our children’s high school as part of a discussion of racism. Honestly, as a white male, I didn’t take it seriously. But I do now.
The officer asked us both for driver’s licenses — even though I wasn’t driving. He pulled Elliott [Smith] out of the car for a breathalyzer — which read .00, as he told the officer it would. When the policeman ran Elliott’s license, he told us it was suspended. Elliott produced paperwork proving that was incorrect. The police officer took his license anyway….
We spent the rest of the drive home talking about race relations and what it’s like to be a person of color in the South. In minority communities, there is profound distrust of a system that permits an officer to confiscate the ID required to vote just before it’s needed — especially if the “violation” isn’t one.”
On Friday, we received an email from Brittiny Barber Johnson, a media relations specialist from Georgia College in Milledgeville, who saw the mention and wanted to provide a detailed, chronological account of what happened.
From her email:
• County law enforcement unit noticed Mr. Smith driving a car without headlights illuminated and flashed his lights to alert Smith.
• Georgia College officer in vicinity noted Smith did not react to flashed lights by illuminating his headlights. A GC officer decided to institute a traffic stop.
• Traffic stop commences with GC officer explaining to Smith that he was pulled over for driving at night without headlights.
• Smith acknowledged he was driving without headlights because he was unfamiliar with the car.
• The GC officer asked for Smith’s driver’s license which was then reported as suspended.
• The officer returned to the Smith vehicle and asked Smith to exit the car. \
• The officer informed Smith that his license was reported as suspended, at which point Smith said he had documentation that proved his license was valid. The officer noted that he was compelled to take action on the information he received about the suspended license.
• The GC officer asked Smith if he had had any alcoholic beverages that night. Smith replied he had not, and the officer asked Smith if he would submit to a Breathalyzer test. Smith complied and he passed the test.
• The officer explained that Smith would not be able to drive the car and asked if his passenger had a valid driver’s license. Smith replied that he did.
• The officer approached the passenger side of the vehicle and asked the occupant if he had his license. The occupant handed the license to the officer who confirmed it was valid.
• The GC officer at this point explained to Smith that he would receive a citation for driving with a suspended license and that the officer would need to retain the license.
• The officer stepped away from the vehicle, wrote the citation and returned to the car.
• The GC officer explained the reason for the citation, noted the court date, informed Mr. Smith that if he indeed had documentation that reinstated his license, he should bring that paperwork to court with him.
• The officer apologized for the inconvenience of the stop and wished the occupants of the vehicle a safe trip home and bid them goodnight.
Ms. Barber informs us that video of the stop exists, but isn’t sure when it might be available. We haven’t had a chance to ask Dr. Rad about this development, but expect to see him Saturday morning.