The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has filed a lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Public Safety on behalf of a doctoral student who was researching negative stereotypes in Mississippi when she and another person were allegedly racially profiled by police.
While Cathryn Stout and Raymond Montgomery were on their way to conduct interviews for a research paper, they were stopped by a Mississippi Highway Patrol officer. The officer claimed that Stout’s Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA) license plate holder obstructed the view of her tag. Stout’s attorney, however, insists that the tag violated no Mississippi law.
In the end, a supposed license plate infraction ended with the officer calling for backup and searching through the vehicle even though he was never given Montgomery’s permission.
After Montgomery denied a request by the trooper to search the vehicle, the lawsuit alleges that things escalated very quickly. Over the course of the next hour, two more police officers arrived on the scene, including a police staff sergeant and an officer with a police dog. The officers interrogated Stout about the purpose of her trip to Mississippi. They asked if anyone had asked them to “transport anything” or if they were carrying weapons. When Stout began to video record the encounter with her cell phone, one of the officers allegedly ordered her to put her phone away. By the time the police finally let Stout and Montgomery go, the lawsuit alleges, the officers had rummaged through their luggage and Stout’s purse. They’d searched every compartment of the vehicle, and they’d used a wrench and a crowbar to remove the panels on the sides of Stout’s car.
The irony here is that Stout and Montgomery were working on a research paper about combating negative stereotypes in Mississippi when they were stopped.
Troopers did not give them a ticket since they’d done nothing wrong. The couple has no plans of returning to central Mississippi.