Two undercover immigration agents are accusing Los Angeles Police Department officers of using excessive force after failing to recognize the agents were in law enforcement, the Los Angeles Times reports. One agents was on a stakeout investigating counterfeit identity sales when police pulled over his undercover Camaro for an expired registration tag. When it was over, one of the agents had been wrestled to the ground, and both were handcuffed and under arrest. “This is a DWB case – driving while black,” said Howard Price, attorney for Agent Shawn Butler, who is black. “He would not have been treated the way he was had he not been black.”
Attorneys for the five LAPD officers involved say the agents precipitated an altercation by being uncooperative and belligerent. The trial began last week and is expected to conclude next month. The city of Los Angeles was dismissed as a defendant, but, as the officers’ employer, will have to pay if they are found liable. One of the federal agents testified that he showed police his federal badge and repeatedly tried to convince them he was in law enforcement, but they wouldn’t believe him. Officers were suspicious because a police database turned up nothing for the Camaro’s license plate, which made them think the vehicle might have been stolen. Federal agents say it’s standard for law enforcement cars to have no history in the database.