On October 1, 2014, the Washington, D.C. police department decided that Dennis Stucky, a black man walking through a neighborhood where mostly affluent white people live, might have been involved in a burglary which by accounts appear to have not had a police response yet. The reported phone call came from an alarm that sent an automated call to police. Even worse (f that is possible), the officers involved were themselves black.
In our country, we have made amazing strides toward equality for those who have been disenfranchised by the government and by society. We are still working to better ourselves, and the most recent example are the recent court rulings regarding same sex marriage. Even so, we must be ever vigilant in order to ensure we do not take steps backwards in our pursuits of equality.
Jody Westby, CEO of Global Cyber Risk, LLC, stepped forward on October 1st when she saw institutionalized racism at work in the Washington, D.C. police department, its response to a black man walking in her neighborhood.
Said Westby, “Just because he’s black, doesn’t mean he’s here to rob a house. He works for us he’s been in this neighborhood for 30 years.”
I acknowledge that the police should be allowed to ask questions about a crime that happened nearby (even though the crime occurred nearly a mile away); that said the manner of the questions and the style in which the questioning took place leave something to be desired. Westby’s housekeeper filmed the below video, in which you will notice the following:
- The police demanded and required that Stucky get on the ground
- The police demanded he explain where he came from and where he was going
Given that the police officers involved did not have a description of the suspect at all, the appropriate way to handle this, I think, should have been:
- Ask him if he had a moment to speak
- Ask him if he was aware of any suspicious activity in the neighborhood
Had they approached the situation in this way, they would have learned (without confrontation) what Westby had to explain to them: Stucky has worked in this neighborhood for 30 years, and his presence in the neighborhood was both expected and welcome by the community.
And finally: as there was no break-in that occurred, and the alarm went off erroneously causing an automated call to be placed to the police department, an important question is raised. Why were the police stopping someone walking at a normal pace nearly a mile away from an active alarm going off instead of rushing to the scene of the “crime”?
Please be sure to watch this video, and share this message with people you know. We must work to be ever vigilant and cognizant of this type of behavior, now and always.
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