Yesterday we brought up the story of actress Daniele Watts who was briefly handcuffed by police when she refused to show her ID during questioning. That generated a lot of discussion among our readers (a discussion which was still going on well into the afternoon today) but there are updates which bring a little more clarity to the story. This will include a video and an interview with Watts and her boyfriend. What may be of the most interest here is not what is said, but what is not said. (But we’ll get to that in a moment.)

In yesterday’s article, the key question I asked was whether or not the officer had been sent there on a specific complaint or if he had randomly decided to roust out a mixed race couple. We now have the answer to that question.

Police responded to a citizen complaint that “a male white and female black were involved in a sexual act inside a Mercedes” outside the gate of CBS Studio Center on Thursday, according to a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department.

Legal experts said the officer had the right to request identification if he suspected illegal behavior, but audio of part of the encounter with police, published by TMZ, revealed that Watts did not believe so.

“Somebody called, which gives me the right to be here,” the unidentified Los Angeles police officer is heard saying to Watts. “So It gives me the right to identify you by law.”

So, the police officer was responding to a call. And the specifics confirmed by the police and which turn up in the audio of the tape (available below) confirm what the complaint was. Somebody reported that there was a couple in a Mercedes “engaged in a sex act” with the door open. The interviewer points out to Watts that CNN’s attorneys checked into it and found that if there is a report of a crime, the officer is entitled to not only ask for ID, but to detain a likely subject “for a reasonable amount of time” to ascertain their identity.

So once you listen to all of this, you’ll probably be wondering the same thing I was. Where did the story about her being a prostitute and the whole racial angle come into it? The interviewer put that query to the boyfriend and his answer is very illuminating. Did the officer accuse her of being a prostitute? (Emphasis mine.)

“The clip didn’t show that in the beginning he came up and said I had a call and there was a black and white couple. He’s the one that actually brought that up… He was definitely, like, edging me on. [sic] When he pulled up he asked me questions like, no. He didn’t ask me directly about the fact that I… it just made me feel like I was a client and she was a prostitute. The questions he was asking and the way he was doing it, throughout the whole experience he kept on doing it.”

And yet, how many headlines and cable TV leads did you see yesterday reporting that cop mistook her for a hooker? I noted quite a few. I wonder if they are all putting out retractions today?

The interviewer continues and actually asks Watts, if she were a police officer, how would she have handled it.

“Well, I’ve actually played an officer before and I’ve thought a lot about this. I think it comes down to seeing the humanity in another person and having the awareness for what your actions are and the repercussions of your actions. When the officer came up, he didn’t even ask me for my ID. He asked Brian. So he didn’t even give me the respect of telling me what happened. For me, if he had come to me and said excuse me ma’am, you seem like a respectable person but someone made a call, can we just talk to you for a second, the whole situation would have been different.”

This is where the couple’s story really starts blowing up. Her entire case originally was the fact that she should not have had to show her ID. But under scrutiny, she turns around and says that if the officer had asked her for the documents – and done so “with respect and dignity” – then it could have been resolved. But this comes after her admission that she was on the phone with her father and not talking to the officer. So rather than interrupting her call, he asks the boyfriend. In fact, when you listen to the cop on the tape, he remains calm, polite and in control of himself for the entire exchange, even when she starts raising her voice. And it also finishes the question of who brought race into the mix.

“Somebody called, which gives me the right to be here,” the unidentified Los Angeles police officer is heard saying to Watts. “So It gives me the right to identify you by law.”

“Do you know how many times the cops have been called just for being black?” she responded.

“Who brought up the race card?” the officer said.

“I’m bringing it up because I have every right to be here,” Watts said.

When the officer again asked for her ID, the actress responded, “You can take me down to the court office, and I can make a scene about it. And you know what? I have a publicist, and I work as an actor in this studio.”

The officer, who patrols a neighborhood home to many A-list celebs, including George Clooney and Miley Cyrus, seemed unmoved by the prospect. “I’m mildly interested you have a publicist, but I’m going to get your ID,” he told her.

“No, I’m going to say no, and if you’d like my ID you can say that I’m resisting arrest,” she said.

“There’s no resisting, you’re just interfering,” he said. “I have probable cause; we received a radio call.”

Watts called her father. “I can’t make out with my boyfriend in front of my f–king studio?” she is heard yelling to her father. “I don’t have to give him my ID because it’s my right to sit on the f–king street corner and make out with my boyfriend. That’s my right.”

“Keep yelling, it really helps,” the officer then said.

The reality is that the only time race came into it from the officer was in relating what he was given on the radio. There was one “male white and female black” in the report. (Yes, the cops probably need to work on their radio codes for the 21st century.) The officer located the Mercedes matching the description at the correct location and a couple matching that description. That’s when he moved forward to investigate. And nobody said she was a prostitute. There was no complaint about prostitution. There was a complaint about a couple having sex in a car with the door open in a public place in the daytime.

The interviewer tried once more to ask Watts if she understood, after seeing how it ended as soon as her husband handed over her ID, that the whole thing might not have happened if she’d done that in the first place. Watts responded yet again that it was part of her role as a public figure to raise awareness.

Raise awareness of what? She also brings up that she’s defending those who might not have the ability she does to “stand up” and that she went to college and “studied the law.” Apparently it wasn’t California law.

But finally, let’s get to what was actually going on which started the whole thing. The original media reports talked about the couple “kissing” in the car. But the caller used the phrase “a sex act.” The interviewer on CNN – to her credit – actually tried to drill down on this one.

Interviewer: The call that was made to 911.. They thought they saw something. Let me be frank, were you two doing something you shouldn’t be doing?

Watts: In my opinion, it’s not a crime to be fully clothed and showing affection on a public street in our own car. If we’re fully clothed it doesn’t matter how passionately we’re making out. It’s my right and my pleasure to enjoy myself. And I don’t feel like I should have to feel shameful for that or apologize for that.

This is interesting also, and it comes back to what was said and what was not said. She ducked giving a direct answer to that question. She chooses the phrase making out and goes to lengths to repeat that they were “fully clothed.” But if what they were really doing was just kissing – even french kissing – what sane person would possibly think that kissing your boyfriend would generate a call from citizens to the cops? There’s a lot more than kissing you can do when “fully clothed.” Was there something, perhaps, even a bit more passionate (to keep things civil) going on inside that car? We don’t know, but Watts certainly failed to rule it out.

Anyway, let’s go to the video and you can judge for yourself. From what I can tell, any investigation into this is going nowhere. The officer was completely within his rights to ask Watts for her ID and she flipped out on him. He conducted himself in a calm manner, in the view of many, knowing he was being filmed. This sounds more and more like somebody who wants to be a big shot and attract the spotlight.

Tags: police racism