A Half Moon Bay City Council member believes he was the victim of racial profiling last week when he was stopped on the street by a deputy from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office.
Councilman Joaquin Jimenez was riding his bike Sunday morning northbound on Main Street near the I.D.E.S. Hall in Half Moon Bay when he was pulled over by a deputy. He says the deputy told him he was stopped for failing to heed a stop sign. He was advised of the law, but was not cited.
Jimenez said he had come from his ranch and was wearing dirty clothes and looked disheveled at the time he was stopped.
“In this case, this deputy profiled me as dirty Mexican riding a bicycle on Main Street,” Jimenez said. “It was uncomfortable.”
Jimenez said he used his cellphone to document the Holy Ghost Festival as he rode by the I.D.E.S. Hall and had both hands off the handlebars as a result. San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said that explains the traffic stop.
“The deputy thought the bicyclist was behaving in a dangerous manner, and in violation of the vehicle code,” Bolanos said when asked about the incident on Wednesday.
According to Jimenez, the deputy followed him with lights flashing in a patrol car on Main Street from the I.D.E.S. Hall to Correas Street. Jimenez said he wasn’t alerted to the fact that the deputy wanted him to stop until he heard the siren as he rolled through the stop sign at Correas Street. Jimenez said he told the deputy he rode his bike frequently around the area on weekends. Jimenez said after his initial encounter with the deputy, he circled back to speak with a Sheriff’s sergeant about the incident.
Bolanos said the deputy recognized Jimenez as a city councilman, adding that had nothing to do with whether a citation was issued. Bolanos believes Jimenez’s claims of racial profiling “have no basis” and that the deputies acted appropriately. He noted that bicyclists are subject to the same rules of the road as motorized vehicles.
“I strongly believe our deputies would have pulled over anyone who engaged in that type of behavior,” Bolanos said.
The incident occurred as Jimenez and the rest of the City Council were examining the role of San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office deputies in Half Moon Bay. Last week, the council opted not to examine a proposed draft ordinance, co-written by Jimenez and Councilman Harvey Rarback, that would change how deputies operate in the city. Among the complaints addressed in the draft are traffic stops for minor code violations that some reformists say are merely an excuse for extra scrutiny of people of color.
Jimenez has long been a vocal advocate for transparency between law enforcement and the public. He and other family members were stopped and photographed by Sheriff’s deputies during the 2015 Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. At the time, then-Undersheriff Bolanos said the men were followed because some wore T-shirts that memorialized a gang member and that they were photographed because of what he said was a heated exchange between Jimenez and a security guard.
“Racial profiling is happening,” Jimenez said. “Even when we ride our bicycles.”
“This is exactly what I’m talking about,” Jimenez said. “When people ask about coming forward, well, I’m coming forward. This is what happened to me. I was riding a bicycle like everyone does on Main Street. But I’m the one getting pulled over.”