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

A Sacramento police officer used the city’s jaywalking statute as a pretext to initiate this violent confrontation with Nandi Cain, Jr. in April.

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.

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