“called on the church’s leadership to apologize or be terminated during a press conference Thursday”
A black man who is a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Charlottesville, Virginia was recently stopped by police for fitting the description of a burglary suspect.
The church then sent a letter to the police department decrying the practice of racial profiling, but RaShall Brackney, the Chief of Police, has pushed back on the accusations.
Brackney even released recordings of related phone calls and body camera footage.
Tyler Hammel reports at the Daily Progress:
Brackney refutes racial profiling claims made by church, calls on leadership to be held accountable
Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney refuted claims of racial profiling made by leaders of the Unitarian Universalists of Charlottesville Church following an October incident and called on the church’s leadership to apologize or be terminated during a press conference Thursday.
The press conference followed an internal affairs investigation conducted by the police department after the church published a letter addressed to Brackney on Oct. 15 detailing allegations of racial profiling against one of its members.
According to the letter, which was written by the Rev. Linda Olson Peebles and signed by various church members, a congregant was surrounded by police while walking to church on Oct. 7 after the city police received a call from a University of Virginia student.
Per the letter, the church member was told by city police that he matched the description of a suspect in a series of break-ins, though the letter contends that the suspect looked nothing like the church member, other than that both men are Black.
“He has faced discrimination for ‘walking while black’ before, but this racial profiling and harassment must stop,” the letter reads. “Your police department owes our member an apology. He needs to feel safe in our church neighborhood.”
Here are the released 911 calls:
Buried towards the bottom of the report, it is alleged that the man who was stopped was walking through people’s back yards. Perhaps that had something to do with it:
During the roughly 10-minute clip, the officers can be heard explaining to the man that they are in the area due to a call and because of a series of break-ins nearby. Though the man is difficult to hear in the clip, based on officer responses it appears he is aware of why the officers are in the area and flagged them down because of that.
An officer tells the man that he should not walk through people’s backyards and private property and should instead take a different route, which matches a claim made in the church’s letter that “one of the officers even suggested that he walk another way to church!”…
“I’m not going to keep arguing with you about it. You’re trying to push this race thing that it’s not, and I’m tired of hearing about it,” the officer can be heard saying. “It has nothing to do with race; they just had their house broken into by someone who came from the same direction that is fitting the same description.”
Here is the police bodycam footage:
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlottesville doesn’t seem satisfied. On December 10th, they posted the following statement on their website:
The CPD Office of Professional Standards, Internal Affairs Unit, conducted an investigation, and submitted a report of their findings earlier this month. Their interpretation of our letter of concern to them caused them to investigate three categories of violations – Bias Based Policing, Harassment, and Unconstitutional Search.
The final finding is that all charges are “Unfounded,” which is defined by them to mean “No basis of fact to support the allegation.” The Police are holding a public press conference Thursday, December 10, sharing this finding. Our congregation will once again be in the news.
Leaders of the congregation who have talked with our member about what happened are concerned with these findings. The CPD report has a number of discrepancies between the testimony of the police and the account of our church member. The church member’s response to the police report is that it was what is to be expected. He now tells us he is not interested in addressing this any longer, and has asked us to not take any further efforts to address his particular situation.
For anyone who is not aware, the Unitarian Universalist Church, as an organization, is very progressive and very political. There is a UU church in my area which flies a gay pride flag, a trans pride flag, and a Black Lives Matter banner on the front of their building.
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