Racism in the South

The US Department of Justice reached an agreement with a Georgia sheriff’s office after Delaware State University filed a civil rights complaint when the Black women’s lacrosse team was stopped and searched while traveling, according to CNN.

On April 20, 2022, a bus full of athletes was stopped by officers from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office in Savannah. What seemed like an average traffic stop turned into a full-fledged search as officers released K-9s to sniff the student’s bags for drugs, then warned them to hand over any illegal substances. DSU alleged these actions were not only humiliating but racially discriminatory in a formal complaint filed to the DOJ. Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman, who is Black, said no one was arrested as a result of the traffic stop but instead, the driver was given a warning, per AP.


Within the past year, the sheriff’s office conducted an internal investigation that concluded the officers did not discriminate against the athletes because of their race. Monday, the Justice Department made an agreement with the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office that they will review their department policies.

Read more about it from AP News:

The Justice Department said in a statement that the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office had agreed to examine its department’s traffic stop and search policies and “make necessary updates,” as well as develop and enact new data collection procedures.

Liberty County Sheriff William Bowman, who is Black, insisted his department doesn’t practice racial profiling after being criticized by Delaware State students and administrators last year. Bowman said the students’ bus was pulled over for traveling in the highway’s left lane, which is illegal in Georgia. He said the search was conducted after a drug-sniffing dog outside the bus signaled there could be drugs on it.

Georgia courts have held that the odor of marijuana is enough to give police probable cause to search vehicles without a warrant.


Back in November, another group of HBCU students was subject to similar treatment from the police. Shaw University students were on a field trip when they got stopped by South Carolina sheriff’s deputies and also had their bags searched and sniffed by K-9s. No complaints were filed in this case, but the sheriff’s office was slammed for being racially biased.

LSCO will work with the DOJ to eradicate itself of any biased policing practices and also seek to meet with the students involved in the incident to facilitate a dialogue around why the stop was perceived as racist, per the agreement.