It’s rare that when a city official makes national news, it’s for a good reason. Sheila Baccus isn’t breaking any molds.
Baccus, a black city councilwoman in Darlington, South Carolina, is making news because she allegedly told a white police officer to “take your white self back to the white neighborhood” over a $10 ticket, according to a Sunday report from WPDE-TV.
The incident occurred on June 17. Officer Paul Bryant with the Darlington Police Department was doing traffic duty and put a ticket on Councilwoman Baccus’ SUV. (A white SUV, at that — the officer clearly wasn’t biased against sport utility vehicles.) According to WBTW-TV, the vehicle was parked on the wrong side of the street.
So far, so Mayberry PD.
However, unlike Gomer Pyle giving some “golly gee, Andy, I was only there for five minutes” talk, Baccus was a bit more, um, direct.
A report from the Darlington Police Department says she asked the police officer what he was doing. That should have been pretty obvious — and, it’s worth noting, the officer explained he’d previously given her a verbal warning.
“At this time another subject, # 2, black female came to the door of the residence and made a comment in reference to what was going on as well. This officer recognized this female at the door as the same female I had, given the verbal warning to in reference to improper parking,” the report reads, according to WPDE.
“She then commented about the parking. Then subject number #1 then said to the officer ‘Why are you harassing us, you don’t have anything better to do than write parking tickets?’ This officer replied: This is the job that the chief has me performing and if you have a problem you need to call him.”
The second woman asked the police officer for his name. Again, fair enough, if a little Karen-ish. It’s your right, after all, to ask these sorts of questions of police officers. At least she didn’t go with, “Am I being detained?”
Actually, check that. She probably should have stuck with that old obnoxious standby.
“At that time, she made a call on her cell phone. Why do you have this white officer over here harassing us?” the police report read.
“Then it looked like she ended the call and said to this officer ‘The chief said he will take care of this ticket.’ Then I stated that’s good, I, wasn’t harassing anyone.”
That’s when Baccus allegedly stated: “Take your white self back to the white neighborhood. … You’re probably the kind that would shoot us in the back.”
“This officer made no comment and returned to [his] patrol car and left the scene,” the report read.
At least three separate news outlets — WPDE, WBTW and WBTV-TV — reached out to Baccus for comment, in some cases several times. She was less loquacious than she allegedly was with Officer Bryant. In fact, she didn’t have anything to say at all, refusing to talk to any of them.
“On June 17, 2020, an unattended white SUV was improperly parked on Oak Street. An officer approached the vehicle and placed a parking ticket on the vehicle for being improperly parked,” Darlington City Police Chief Kelvin Washington said in a statement to WBTW. “It was later discovered that the vehicle was being operated by Councilwoman Sheila Baccus.”
“The officer handled this interaction with Councilwoman Baccus with the highest level of professionalism and he has my complete support. He did nothing wrong and said nothing wrong. He was simply just doing his job,” said Washington, who is black. “Any questions about Councilwoman Baccus’ actions or comments that day would be best answered by her. The parking ticket was paid two days after the incident.”
Meanwhile, instead of ponying up $10 for a parking ticket — less than your average lunch at Chipotle — Councilwoman Baccus made national news, and not in a good way. And she ponied up the $10 anyway. She didn’t even save any money on this outrage.
If this report is accurate, this is a low-key version of the kinds of attacks we’ve seen police officers face across the country. He was subject to racist abuse — ironic, given that the abuse was predicated on the evidence-free charge he was a racist.
He was told he was the kind of cop who would shoot black women in the back. Instead, he conducted himself with the utmost propriety.
Sheila Baccus wants to shut up now. It’s too late for that. If she didn’t say what she’s accused of, she needs to let her constituents and the people of South Carolina know this is a falsehood. If she said it, Officer Bryant is owed an apology — as are the rest of America’s police officers, who had aspersions cast, by association, on the work they do.
Either way, the moment for “no comment” has long since passed.
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