An Indian-American film producer who rented a truck to move into her new address in Los Angeles suddenly found 10 police officers pointing guns at her and her friend. The cops ordered them to get out of the truck and lie spreadeagled on the street. Officers pressed their knees into the women’s necks while violently handcuffing them in full view of the street.
The cops eventually found that they had made a mistake in thinking that the U-Haul truck that Shibani Balsaver and Sheilanee Sen had rented was stolen. The police force had failed to read a code on their computer that showed that the truck was no longer listed as stolen.
The two women, who said the cops never even apologized, have now filed a civil lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department demanding for justice.
Brian Olney, a civil rights attorney at Handsell Stormer Renick & Dai LLP in California, who is representing Balsaver and Sen, called them very brave women who stood up for their rights by filing the lawsuit.
“Shibani knows she can’t undo what had happened to her but she doesn’t want to happen it to anyone else,” Olney told indica News. “This, unfortunately, happens to people all the time, and this is LAPD policy.”
Balsaver told the police that she had rented the U-Haul truck that morning and that the receipt was in her purse. When the cops realized, the attorney said, they joked about asking for free U-Haul service for life.
The lawsuit states that Sergeant Pelayo, the commanding officer at the scene, explained that the officers’ error was due to the LAPD’s failure to train them on new computer codes distinguishing vehicles currently stolen or not.
“The women were in complete shock and had thought would be shot,” Olney said. “They had no idea why they had been stopped and were traumatized.
“The whole time they detained the women, no one ever told why they are being subjected to these aggressive confrontational and terrorizing tactics,” he added. “Federal courts cleared years ago that these tactics are unconstitutional and unlawful based only on a suspicious vehicle. But the LAPD refuses to listen.
“The photos speak a thousand words,” Olney said. “What the LAPD here was doing was illegal. It violated the constitutional rights of these young women.”
He said they could have asked for the receipt of the U-Haul and would quickly have discovered that the truck not been stolen.
“You don’t put guns on women and force them to lie down on the street,” the attorney said. “And there was no need for the officers to put their knees on the back of Miss Balsevar’s neck just like they did with George Floyd. The officers’ violent actions were appalling and outrageous. She clearly posed no threat.”
He insisted that “we are fortunate she was not shot. When an officer takes out the gun it means someone is going to be shot. We are asking LAPD to change its policy; my clients were terrorized and were going to be killed.”
Asked if bias, racial or otherwise, had any role, Olney said, “The statistics speak for themselves and the statistics show the people of color are far more likely to be stopped by the police. And Shibani and Sheilanee Sen are women of color… This clearly is a pattern that shows that the people of color are more likely to be stopped by the police.”