Actor Wesley Snipes, star of the movie "New Jack City," said Friday he was abused by Los Angeles police, adding his voice to a growing number of black celebrities who have recounted similar stories of harassment.
Snipes was joined by three other black actors, including Blair Underwood of the television drama "L.A. Law," to note that the videotaped beating of black motorist Rodney King last month by a group of white officers is only one of the instances of police harassment of minorities.The actors said they too have been stopped by police, frisked and harassed for no apparent reason other than because, they believe, they are young black men who fit a so-called profile of criminals.
Tico Wells, who stars in the film "The Five Heartbeats," and Reginald Dorsey of the TV series "Booker," also described their experiences with the Los Angeles police.
"It goes with a mindset that accepts black people as criminals, that sees young black males as criminally suspect by walking down the street, " Snipes said. "Regardless of what you do, how much integrity you have, the color of your skin makes you suspicious or about to do something."
Snipes, 28, who plays a drug dealer in the recently released movie, said he was stopped last Sunday by police and forced to lie spread-eagle on the pavement by an officer who put his knee on his neck, a pistol to his head and accused him of stealing the rented car he was driving.
The New York-based actor said at least seven officers stood by for backup even though he complied with police orders.
At a news conference in the offices of the American Civil Liberties Union, Snipes recalled how he identified himself and explained that the car was rented for him by his production company. He said he was put in tight handcuffs and taken down to the police station where he was chained to a bench, then put in a holding cell. He eventually was released without being charged.
ACLU Executive Director Ramona Ripston said the organization is planning to file a class-action lawsuit, seeking to bar the department from stopping people based on a criminal profile.
Police Department spokesman Lt. Fred Nixon said Snipes' accusations of abuse are being investigated.
Nixon said Snipes was stopped and the license plate checked after Snipes committed a traffic violation. Snipes was not cited and denied police accusations that he continued driving straight from a left turn lane.
Meanwhile, members of the Police Protective League, which represents the city's 8,100 cops, voted overwhelmingly Friday to begin a recall drive against Mayor Tom Bradley.
League President Lt. George Aliano said the matter will go the the union's nine-member board of directors Wednesday for final approval. Friday's vote was 650-4.
He said the union is willing to throw its political clout and $1.5 million war chest behind the Bradley recall effort. A similar recall drive against Gates has been mounted by community activists.