Bakersfield Paying $60K to Settle Lawsuit Filed by Black Man Over Traffic Stop Arrest

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A still from a video released by the ACLU shows a police officer holding up a light to the backseat of a vehicle during a traffic stop in Bakersfield on March 17, 2017.

A still from a video released by the ACLU shows a police officer holding up a light to the backseat of a vehicle during a traffic stop in Bakersfield on March 17, 2017.

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The city of Bakersfield has agreed to pay $60,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a black man arrested after refusing to answer questions by police during a traffic stop in 2017, an advocacy group announced Monday.

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundations of Southern and Northern California filed the suit on behalf of Robert Mitchell, a Bakersfield resident, in connection with the incident that happened on March 17, 2017.

The lawsuit accused Bakersfield police of pulling over the vehicle Mitchell was in along with three other black people because they purportedly “saw air fresheners hanging from the car’s rearview mirror, the tires were bald, and the car came to a rest in the turn lane with its wheels touching the dividing line.”

The ACLU released an edited cellphone video recorded by Mitchell during the encounter. The footage shows him in the backseat declining to tell an officer his name.

Police arrested Mitchell when he “invoked his constitutional rights not to answer their questions,” the lawsuit said. He subsequently spent 12 hours in jail but was never charged, according to the court filing.

The city determined the settlement to be a “good resolution,” although the ACLU could have taken the case to court but it opted not to, City Attorney Ginny Gennaro told The Bakersfield Californian.

“At the end of the day, the settlement was pretty clear that there was no admission of liability,” Gennaro told the newspaper.

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