Over the weekend, CNN aired a pre-recorded special from reporter Sara Sidner that devoted an hour to portraying police officers as engaging in widespread racial discrimination against African Americans. As is typical of the liberal network, there was no acknowledgement that people of all races are sometimes subjected to violence during arrests as she declared that it is a system that is "fraught with bias."
NewsNation host Dan Abrams -- also chief legal analyst for ABC News and former co-host the A&E show Live PD (which the left successfully cancelled in June 2020) -- notably called out CNN for airing the special right after several high-profile cases of police officers being murdered as he also questioned some of Sidner's flaky analysis.
First, Sidner's special. She went through a list of several black motorists who were subjected to questionable violence in recent years, but, in most cases, she understated what the suspect had done that contributed to the situation being escalated to violence.
In recalling that Daunte Wright was pulled over for an expired tag and inappropriate display of air freshener, it was not mentioned that the officers ran his tag number before stopping him and already had reason to believe there was a warrant out for his arrest before they pulled him over. It was also not mentioned that his legal problems that led to the warrant had started when he allegedly tried to rob a woman at gunpoint. This and other criminal activity by Wright were ignored by CNN in the past year.
When she related that Caron Nazario in Virginia was pulled over after officers failed to see his temporary tag displayed in his back window, it was not mentioned that the tinted glass that he was illegally using was the reason the tag was difficult to see in the first place. Nazario also failed to stop immediately, all of which raised red flags with the pursuing officers.
Her accounting of the shooting death of Philando Castile in Minnesota after the officer, Jeronimo Yanez, mistakenly believed he was pulling out his gun, did not mention that Castile failed to use the proper protocol to make sure his hands were on the steering wheel when informing the officer of having a firearm in his car.
It was also not mentioned that Castile's daily marijuana use meant that it was illegal for him to possess a gun.
Sidner also used Castile's mother to argue that her son had been racially profiled for years because he had been pulled over about 50 times in a decade. It was not mentioned that, for most of that time, Castile had frequently driven on a suspended license and without the legally required insurance, which traffic cops could easily have discovered just by running his tag number before deciding whether to stop him (a commonplace and routine practice for traffic cops).
Driving without insurance -- a danger to other motorists or pedestrians who might be financially ruined by an accident -- is not a minor offense.
On his eponymous Monday show, Abrams opened by responding to the CNN special (click "expand"):
There's been a lot of news about police and policing in this past week. Police officers intentionally killed in near record numbers in 2021 and, this month, news of officers in Houston and New York, among others. So, this weekend, CNN created an hour special on policing in America. But of course, it wasn't about the cops who had been killed in near-record numbers and the dangers of being police officers. No. It was, of course, it was about police misconduct and bias.
To be clear, CNN is a news network and, yet, this series is mostly a sort of greatest hits of police misconduct even though the news of the week has been about cops getting killed.
Wait. So, officers are injured in two percent of all traffic stops? That is way higher than I would have thought. That's a huge number. That means using her 36,000 number, that in 720 of those the cops are injured? The documentary then tried to just completely write off a staggering number of successful traffic stops.
He pointed out that Sidner used a source, UNC professor Frank Baumgartner, who tried to argue that it was inappropriate to do police searches if 75 percent failed to find anything illegal, even though finding something illegal 25 percent is still a substantial amount of time: "So finding guns or drugs on a quarter of those cases — is going to result in a lot of guns and drugs being taken off the street. How does that show a failure by the cops?"
Abrams also took aim at Sidner's citation of a study that traffic stops don't actually make a difference in keeping communities safe (click "expand"):
But what kind of study is that? The rate of crime broadly wasn't reduced based on the number of traffic violations. What does that prove? That's like saying in areas where less pizzas are sold, there must be a correlation to better health.
On multiple occasions, we see police officers in the line of fire during what started as a traffic stop and, in many cases, that is how police find missing fugitives. Let me be clear. I believe there still is racial bias in our society and that can bleed over into policing and that officers who do bad things must be held accountable. But this CNN special is basically advocating the cops with weapons no longer be involved in pulling over vehicles because it must be the cops fault in cases where the situation gets escalated.
The CNN special, not surprisingly, gave no indication that only 25 percent of those killed by police officers on duty are black.
Sunday's CNN special was sponsored in part by Samsung and AT&T. Their contact information is linked. Let them know how you feel about CNN putting on such a deceptive presentation that undermines police officers from keeping us all safer.
CNN Special Report -- Traffic Stop: Dangerous Encounters
January 30, 2022
9:00 p.m. Eastern
SARA SIDNER: The videos are disturbing. Their names are well-known. Traffic stops: where drivers pay the ultimate price in a system fraught with bias
9:06 p.m. Eastern
SARA SIDNER: It was a traffic stop of a black person like many you've heard about in the news over the past several years. There's the case of 20-year-old Daunte Wright -- initially pulled over outside Minneapolis for a minor violation, an air freshener hanging on his rearview mirror and an expired tag. Wright tried to flee when officers tried to arrest him for an outstanding warrant.
KIM POTTER: Taser! Taser!
SIDNER: It ended in his death. He was shot by an officer who says she confused her gun for her taser. Also near Minneapolis, an officer killed Philando Castile after pulling him over for a minor traffic violation, a broken tail light. His girlfriend said Castile reached for his identification, and informed the officer that he had a gun which he had a legal permit to carry, but the officer claimed Castile's hand was on the gun.
[Clip of shooting from dashcam]
SIDNER: Then there was Walter Scott, pulled over for a busted taillight. He ran.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1080 on foot. Black male, green shirt.
SIDNER: An officer shot him in the back, killing him. The officer pleaded guilty. He was sentenced to 20 years for depriving Scott of his civil rights, a federal charge. Army officer Caron Nazario was terrified when two officers in Southern Virginia approached his SUV with guns drawn during a traffic stop.
CARON NAZARIO: What's going on?
OFFICER: What's going on is you're fixing to ride the lightning, son.
SIDNER: The officers reported they didn't see the temporary paper tag in Nazario's car.
NAZARIO: I'm honestly afraid to get out.
SIDNER: He was pepper sprayed.
OFFICER: Get out of the car.
SIDNER: Nazario survived, and is suing for a million dollars in damages. One of the officers was fired, but Virginia's attorney general is now suing the city, alleging that police practiced discrimination against black drivers. About 50,000 of us drivers in the U.S. get stopped each and every day. That's about 20 million per year. It's the most common civilian police interaction. But it is more common for black folks, and potentially more dangerous.
PROFESSOR FRANK BAUMGARTNER, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: My best estimate is that a black person getting into a car is twice as likely to be pulled over as a white person, roughly speaking.
SIDNER: Professor Frank Baumgartner at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill is an expert on traffic stops. He's analyzed 20 million of them in North Carolina alone. He says the disparities are even more pronounced when it comes to searches.
BAUMGARTNER: Once pulled over, that's a double whammy. Gives you a four times greater likelihood of being searched, just being black.
SIDNER: You've probably heard the phrase driving while black. It's a common refrain in the black community. But now, we have cold hard statistics that bear it out. So we wanted to know how did we get to a place where if you're black, you're more likely to be pulled over and searched?
9:16 p.m. Eastern
SIDNER: Castile had a legal permit to carry.
PHILADNO CASTILE: I do have --
OFFICER JERONIMO YANEZ: OK.
CASTILE: -- a firearm on me.
YANEZ: Don't reach for it them.
CASTILE: I'm --
YANEZ: Don't pull it out.
CASTILE: I'm happy to pull it out.
SIDNER: When Castile reached for his identification --
YANEZ: Don't pull it out.
DIAMOND REYNOLDS, GIRLFRIEND OF PHILANDO CASTILE: No! No!
SIDNER: --- the officer who claimed he saw Castile's his hand on his gun reacted, lightning fast.
YANEZ: Don't pull it out.
VALERIE CASTILE, MOTHER OF PHILANDO CASTILE: I woke up to my daughter crying and screaming that he was on Facebook dying.
REYNOLDS: He was reaching for his wallet, and the officer just shot him in his arm.
YANEZ: I told him not to reach for it! I told him to get his hand out!
REYNOLDS: You told him to get his ID, sir, his driver's license. Oh, my God, please don't tell me he's dead.
VALERIE CASTILE: I can tell you, I knew when my son passed. I had feelings like you have when you're giving birth. When I started having those contractions, I knew that he was suffering that -- that he was trying to live. And when the contractions stopped, I knew he was dead.
SIDNER: That night, he was stopped for a broken tail light -- a minor traffic violation, something that had happened to him more than 52 times since 2002. [TO VALERIE CASTILE] Why do you think your son was stopped so many times?
VALERIE CASTILE: Because he was black. Because he was black. I mean, nobody can be that unlucky, and nobody is that horrible of a driver. It wasn't "he ran a stop sign" or "he was in a car accident." It's none of that. It's what they call now, "pretext stops."
BAUMGARTNER. For the most part, equipment violations are often used as a pretext to pull somebody over, tends to be people on the poor side of town, often times with minorities. Those are stops where the officer first decided that they wanted to have a conversation with the driver, and, second, figure out a way to pull him over.
SIDNER: And when you say conversation, you're talking about an investigation?
BAUMGARTNER: A conversation goes like this. Do you know why I pulled you over? No, sir, I have no idea. You made an illegal right turn. I did? Yes sir. Do you have any guns in the car? Are you carrying any drugs? Do you mind if I search the car?
SIDNER: Police officials tell us pre-textual traffic stops became a common tool used by police to search for drugs and guns. And in 1996, the Supreme Court ruled it did not violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures. Experts say finding the initial reason to pull someone over is easy.
BAUMGARTNER: And there's 500 aspects of the travel code in North Carolina between the traffic code and the vehicle code.