A US police force is investigating two of its officers after Tyler Perry accused them of racial profiling for stopping him in his car and questioning him in a “hostile” manner, a spokesman said.
The African-American writer-director made the allegations regarding an incident in Atlanta, Georgia, in which he performed an illegal turn as a precaution to evade someone possibly tailing him.
In a statement alluding to a high-profile case in Florida fueling debate over racism nationwide, Perry described how he was pulled over by two white officers after turning left from the right lane, while driving home from work.
“Most times when I leave the studio I have an unmarked escort. Other times I constantly check in my rearview mirror to be sure that I’m not being followed. It’s a safety precaution that my security team taught me,” he wrote.
After he stopped, an officer told him he had made an illegal turn. He told the officer he did it because he had to be sure he was not being followed. The policeman asked him why he thought someone would follow him.
“Before I could answer him, I heard a hard banging coming from the passenger window,” he said. He wound down the window, which was tinted, and another officer asked him “What is wrong with you?” he said.
A “tense” moment then ensued when Perry went to get a key from a cupholder, only to realize they might think he was reaching for something else — at which he recalled his mother’s advice when stopped by a white policeman.
“My mother would always say to me, ‘If you get stopped by the police, especially if they are white policemen, you say ‘Yes sir’ and ‘No sir,’ and if they want to take you in, you go with them. Don’t resist, you hear me?’”
He decided to step out of the car, at which point another car, with a black officer, pulled up.
“He took one look at me and had that ‘Oh No’ look on his face. He immediately took both officers to the back of my car and spoke to them in a hushed tone.
“After that, one of the officers stayed near his car while one came back, very apologetic,” he said,
“Now I know that there are many great officers, patrolmen and security guys out there… But although we have made significant strides… the world needs to know that we are still being racially profiled.
“And until this situation has improved greatly, I’m not sure how a murder in Florida can be protected by a ‘stand your ground law’,” he said, referring to Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teen shot by a neighborhood watchman.
The Atlanta Police Department said it was looking into the alleged incident. “Mr. Perry’s concerns… will be the basis for referral of the matter to the department’s Office of Professional Standards,” a spokesman said by email.
“OPS has opened an investigation to determine if Mr. Perry’s claims can be substantiated, and whether any departmental policies or procedures were violated during the stop,” he added.