The women’s lacrosse team of Delaware State University claim that they were racially profiled when they were stopped by Georgia troopers, NBC News reports.
Citing a traffic violation, Liberty County sheriff’s deputies stopped the bus and then entered the vehicle telling them that their luggage would be searched for narcotics. One deputy told the students that marijuana is illegal in Georgia for recreational use before the search began.
“If there is something in there that is questionable, please tell me now,” the officer said in a video recorded by team member Sydney Anderson. “Because if we find it, guess what? We’re not going to be able to help you.”
Anderson said on Instagram that she is “disappointed but not surprised” by the incident.
“Our constitutional rights were violated and justice needs to be served,” Anderson wrote. “Time and time again, racial encounters happen without being formally addressed.”
“To be clear, nothing illegal was discovered in this search, and all of our coaches and student-athletes comported themselves with dignity throughout a trying and humiliating process,” said Dr. Tony Allen, President of Delaware State University.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman said that officers had already stopped several commercial vehicles the same morning and discovered contraband in another bus. He claimed that deputies were not aware of the race of the passengers of the vehicle.
“At the time, or even the weeks following, we were not aware that this stop was received as a racial profiling,” Bowman said. “Although I do not believe any racial profiling took place based on the information I currently have, I welcome feedback from our community on ways that our law enforcement practices can be improved while still maintaining the law.”
Allen also wrote in his statement that he’s “incensed” by the incident and that he is investigating it in conjunction with Delaware State’s general counsel and the athletic director.
“It should not be lost on any of us how thin any day’s line is between customary and extraordinary, between humdrum and exceptional, between safe and victimized,” Allen wrote. “That is true for us all but particularly so for communities of color and the institutions who serve them. The resultant feelings of disempowerment are always the aggressors’ object.”