The “Jaywalker” Brutalized By Sacramento Police Was Stopped for No Reason at All

Sacramento police had no justification to initiate this violent confrontation with Nandi Cain, Jr.
Sacramento police had no justification to initiate this violent confrontation with Nandi Cain, Jr.

If your goal is to make people safer, police stops for jaywalking are not the way to go. These stops can escalate and cause physical harm while preventing none, like when police bloodied an elderly man in New York City, or tackled a young woman to the ground in Austin.

When the line between a legally justifiable stop and outright harassment is so thin, it can easily become a pretext for racial profiling. That’s what happened to Nandi Cain, Jr., who was beaten by Sacramento police during what officials called a jaywalking stop. The incident was taped by a passing motorist and resulted in a half-hearted apology from the police department, which said the video was “disturbing” and that the officer’s actions “do not appear to be reasonable.”

Sacramento PD’s statement maintained that Cain was jaywalking, but it turns out that his only offense was walking while black. Systemic Failure breaks down the dashcam footage that preceded the stop:

Sacramento pedestrian

This statement shows the Sacramento PD is utterly confused about jaywalking laws. Crossing the intersection at Cypress and Grand is completely legal under CVC. Dash-cam footage confirms that the pedestrian, Nandi Cain Jr, crossed corner to corner. And no, he was not crossing against a light or anything like that: there are no traffic signals at the intersection.

Even worse, the dash-cam footage shows a driver blasting through the intersection right in front of Cain as he is trying to cross. Pedestrians crossing unsignalized intersection have the right-of-way, and cars are required to yield. If the officer was going to go after anyone, it should have been the driver and not the pedestrian.

So this incident is disturbing on multiple levels. The police did not protect a vulnerable road user from a dangerous driver. Instead, an officer goes after an innocent pedestrian who is rightly annoyed at getting stopped — and gets assaulted as a result. Then the police dept. puts out a ridiculous press release calling Cain a lawbreaker.

The L.A. Times reports there will be a criminal investigation into the officer’s actions and that Cain will not be charged. But what happened to Cain is all too common — how many incidents like this don’t get caught on tape for the world to see?

More recommended reading today: The Transportist shares a new study analyzing transportation opportunities for people with developmental disabilities. The Urban Edge reports that librarians, researchers, and advocates are raising red flags about Republican attacks on government data collection. And The Urbanist rallies readers against a bill backed by Washington state Democrats that would slash support for Seattle’s Sound Transit after voters approved a big transit funding package.

  • basenjibrian

    Absolutely not a 100% correlation. That is not what I said

  • bobfuss

    OK, so you agree and admit that some of the correlation is genuinely about race?

  • basenjibrian

    No, I do not. Economics. Culture. History. Racism. Poverty.
    You are trying to imply that black people cause crime because of their race. It is a LOT more complicated than that. (And lead poisoning IS an important factor)

  • bobfuss

    Not at all, it’s the exact opposite. I accept that skin color does not inherently affect any disposition to behave in any particular way.

    But I also accept that the crime stats are so stunningly correlated to locations with a large black population that it should not be ignored or denied.

    In other words, yes. there are all kinds of reasons why blacks commit more crime e.g. lower economic status, more polluted locations and a host of other factors. But it doesn’t help at all to ignore the correlation for fear you will be dismissed as a racist. Rather you should accept the correlation and then investigate it and try and mitigate it, rather than deny it.

    And as a practical matter, and until the problem gets solved. I’m going to feel safer in San Luis Obispo than Detroit.

  • Brian Howald

    People aren’t confused. Some people are convinced that the law is the opposite of what it actually is, this officer included.

    I always wonder just how unpleasant driving would become if drivers actually yielded at every unmarked crosswalk. When autonomous vehicles take over, we’ll find out.

  • Brian Howald

    Officer stops someone for law he didn’t break and the onus for making sure the encounter goes swimmingly is on the guy being unfairly stopped?

  • Brian Howald

    How convenient that drivers don’t seem to know that they have to stop more often than they’d want to…

  • Brian Howald

    It’s not that the voters can’t be trusted. It’s that they’re not well-informed and have a tendency (like most people) to prioritize short-term gain at the expense of long-term well-being.

  • Timpson

    I’ve wondered the same thing about cyclists stopping everywhere they are supposed to.

  • Timpson

    I’d say there is an onus on remaining calm and civil, especially if you are going to accuse somebody else of an error.

    I’d also bet decent money this pedestrian did not know it was legal to cross there

  • Timpson

    The problem here seems to be that nobody knows about this alleged legality. Most people just guess or use their judgement – they don’t read a statute every time they cross a road

  • Timpson

    Aren’t you assuming there that people are only “informed” if they agree with you?

  • Brian Howald

    I stopped at an unmarked crosswalk for three pedestrians trying to cross the street. While I was biking the other day. I got honked at by several cars, one of which swerved into the oncoming traffic lane directly in the path of the pedestrians rather than legally wait.

    As always, the people driving two-ton death machines are the biggest problem.

  • Brian Howald

    I’ve known it since I was a teenager and I’ve never learned to drive.

    This is a perfect example of where the law was written to protect pedestrians at the same time the crime of jaywalking was invented, and, as automania set in with Americans over the 20th Century, it became convenient to forget that the laws regarding crossing the street are meant to protect pedestrians and prevent them from having to walk long distances out of their way, not to ensure drivers can go 40 mph through residential communities without having to drive too carefully.

    This is a classic example of how the convenience of driving today is only enabled by major breaches of the law that seriously endanger lives. Speeding and failure to yield are the main culprits in crashes where pedestrians die.

  • Brian Howald

    There are people who are informed who disagree with me and many who agree with me who may be uninformed. The number of people well-versed in urban design and traffic engineering, is, like most areas of expertise, very small.

  • Timpson

    By that argument most voters are uninformed about just about everything that they vote on, like the economy, defense, trade, immigration

    Even so, the voters generally know what they want and what they don’t want. And the alternative would be less democracy and more government by “experts” and technocrats.

  • Brian Howald

    > By that argument most voters are uninformed about just about everything that they vote on, like the economy, defense, trade, immigration

    There are certainly levels of informed, but do you think most people have a basic understanding (actors, causes, potential solutions and consequences) of most of the issues in our national conversation?

    > Even so, the voters generally know what they want and what they don’t want. And the alternative would be less democracy and more government by “experts” and technocrats.

    The voters know what they want today, but tomorrow they’ll complain that you didn’t adequately explain the tradeoffs whose downsides they now face. I’m not sure how “experts” are different from experts, and certainly informed people make bad decisions all the time, just fewer than uninformed people.

  • Brian Howald

    Furthermore, if this is a problem of lack of knowledge, I’d love to hear about your proposed plan to inform drivers of the law and hold the lawbreakers accountable.

  • Brian Howald

    > I’d say there is an onus on remaining calm and civil, especially if you are going to accuse somebody else of an error.

    I have no idea how the encounter went. I only know that the officer tried to enforce a law that doesn’t exist and ignored its counterpart that does exist requiring drivers to yield to pedestrians at unsignalized intersections with unmarked crosswalks.

    > I’d also bet decent money this pedestrian did not know it was legal to cross there

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse for not obeying it. Similarly, it is not a reason to be deprived of its protection.

  • Jonathan Krall

    In the New Jim Crow, it is shown that policing is so stunningly correlated to locations with a large black population that it should not be ignored or denied. In so doing, police turn a crime that is uniform across race (illegal drugs) into arrest rates that decimate poor and black communities.

    Seriously. We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of police-citizen interactions gone bad. We’ve seen how police treat black citizens. White communities would never put up with that.

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