Written by Brittany Greenquist.
Ferguson teen Michael Brown was recently gunned down by police, and his death has left Americans dealing with the ever-present reality of police discrimination and brutality. His isn’t the first racial shooting, but it set off a series of events that has left people starving for change.
His death has also encouraged the surfacing of other stories of racial intolerance and discrimination, including the arrest of television producer Charles Belk in Beverly Hills this past weekend.
Belk said police arrested him as he was walking from a restaurant where they reportedly accused him of “armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank.”
Understandably frustrated, the producer wrote a Facebook post that described his experience, saying his only crime was that he fit the description of a “tall, bald head, black male.”
WHEN YOU “FIT THE DESCRIPTION”!
It’s one of those things that you hear about, but never think it would happen to you.
On Friday afternoon, August 22nd around 5:20pm, while innocently walking by myself from a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd, to my car up LaCienega Blvd my freedom was taken from me by the Beverly Hills Police Department.
Within seconds, I was detained and told to sit on the curb of the very busy street, during rush hour traffic.
Within minutes, I was surrounded by 6 police cars, handcuffed very tightly, fully searched for weapons, and placed back on the curb.
Within an hour, I was transported to the Beverly Hills Police Headquarters, photographed, finger printed and put under a $100,000 bail and accused of armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank.
Within an evening, I was wrongly arrested, locked up, denied a phone call, denied explanation of charges against me, denied ever being read my rights, denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time, and denied being told that my car had been impounded…..All because I was mis-indentified as the wrong “tall, bald head, black male,” … “fitting the description.”
I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know at the time that I was a law abiding citizen of the community and that in my 51 years of existence, had never been handcuffed or arrested for any reason. All they saw, was someone fitting the description. Doesn’t matter if he’s a “Taye Diggs BLACK”, a “LL Cool J BLACK”, or “a Drake BLACK.”
Beverly Hills police have since responded, sending a statement to The Huffington Post regarding Belk’s arrest. They said that a 47-year-old female was arrested for the robbery, but witnesses say she was working with a man who distracted bank employees while the robbery was carried out.
Police claim that Belk fit the clothing and physical description of the male suspect, and he was less than a block from where the crime took place. A “field investigation” identified Belk as the suspect, however, a “follow up” investigation determined he was not involved.
“The Beverly Hills Police Department deeply regrets the invoncenience to Mr. Belk and has reached out to him to express those regrets and further explain the circumstances,” they wrote.
While it’s clear the police can’t be too careful when something as dangerous as an armed bank robbery takes place, it’s also important that they not take an innocent man to the precinct based on a description alone — one that they may or may not specifically fit.
But it’s more than them stopping Belk because he supposedly fit the description, it’s the way the entire event was carried out. The producer claims he was never given an explanation, was denied a phone call, a lawyer and he claims no cop went inside the restaurant to check for an alibi.
Belk also posted on Facebook all of the facts, as well as basic rights he was denied:
- I was handcuff on a curb for 45+ minutes on a public, busy street
– I was not heard when I told them where I was and what I did
– The person that was with me around the corner was not heard
– No officer walked about the corner to even inquire with the establishment if I was there
– I was never read my rights even though I was finger printed, photoed and put in a jail cell with a blank and slippers
– I was not allowed a phone call during the 6 hours, even though I requested to make one
– My attorney was denied seeing me for almost an hour (which is a violation of penal code!)
All Americans, including minorities, want to feel safe and know that police are working to protect them, not feel that they’re out to get them.
How does Belk’s experience make you feel in light of everything that’s happened in Ferguson?
This post originally appeared on RYOT.
Photo Credit: Flickr user Ronald Morrison