A recent videotaped incident in Washington, D.C., highlights the way race and class matter in police interactions with residents.
The video, which was posted online by the Washington Post, shows white attorney Jody Westby coming to the aid of black handyman Dennis Stucky, who has been stopped by two officers and is sitting on a curb in the upscale Foxhall Crescent neighborhood.
Westby asks the officers – one standing near the curb and another sitting in a patrol car -- why Stucky has been stopped, and they tell her he’s suspected in a burglary.
The attorney, who had asked her housekeeper to record the incident on a cell phone, demands to know which address the call came from, and she approaches the cruiser to verify the information.
The officer in the car tells her the address, and Westby determines the call was for a nearby subdivision.
“We have a burglar alarm,” says the officer standing in the street. “He’s coming with bags.”
The officer, who is black, tells Westby that Stucky had become “loud and boisterous,” which made police suspicious.
“Because you’re accusing him,” Westby says, sternly.
The attorney then scolds the officers for harassing Stucky and orders them to leave her neighborhood, pointing her finger and gesturing at the officer in the patrol car.
Westby then helps Stucky, an older man who told officers he was disabled, stand up and leads him away by the arm.
“Ma’am, stop,” says the officer in the street.
Westby continues walking away with Stucky, saying police do not have the authority to stop him.
“I’m an attorney, and this is wrong,” she says. “Now please leave our neighborhood.”
The officer in the patrol car offers Westby a business card.
“Just because he’s black, doesn’t mean he’s here to rob a house,” Westby says. “He works for us; he’s been in this neighborhood for 30 years.”
Police said the video showed no misconduct, but Westby said they behaved shamefully, saying the interaction would not likely have played out the same way in a poor, black neighborhood.
“It was very interesting, in the sense of getting a picture of how black cops treat black people, and how humiliating it was for him,” Westby told the Washington Post. “They were treating him just like a dog.”
Watch video from the incident posted online by LoneWolf Sager: