Department accused of racial profiling

October 7, 2009 7:03:59 AM PDT
Chapel Hill's police department is facing allegations of racial profiling.The NAACP said a recent racial profiling complaint is more than an honest case of mistaken identity.

But despite an internal probe that cleared several officers of any wrongdoing, local civil rights leaders are calling for another investigation.

NAACP said it wants the police department to review all of its stops in the last five years, and it continues to call for a civilian review board to look into allegations of police misconduct.

The battle came to a head when Chapel Hill's newest barbershop owner said he was working late one night and found himself on the wrong side of the law.

"Black man walking, 11:30-12 p.m. at night," barbershop owner Charles Brown said. "Okay, what's he doing this time of night?"

That's what he said he assumed two white police officers were thinking when they stopped him outside his shop on Rosemary Street in June.

As it turns out, the officers were looking for another man, Cumun Fearrington.

Neither the resemblance, nor what happened after that added up according to Brown.

He said police handcuffed, taunted and detained him for what seemed like 30 minutes.

"I always thought the first thing you do is ask for identification," he said.

"It seemed to take a little while to get to that point, but I don't believe there was anything procedurally that the officers did wrong," Chapel Hill Police Chief Brian Curran said.

Curran said dispatch records showed the encounter lasted for 16 minutes.

An internal probe has cleared the officers and their back up of any wrongdoing, but now the case has drawn the attention of the NAACP.

"We cannot have people who have badges and guns operating from a biased perspective," North Carolina NAACP President Rev. William Barber said.

"Police investigating other police officers are not going to go far," Brown said, "They're going to stand behind each other."

Chief Curran said the officers in Brown's case endured a tough investigation and he met with Brown and his attorney.

"I did apologize to Mr. Brown for the mistaken identity, because that's what it was for the inconvenience it caused him," Curran said.

More like a life changing event, according to Brown who's now reluctant to work late at night.

"I was a little hurt, can't walk down the street without being profiled," he said.

Chapel Hill's police department said it's looking into installing more dash-cams to record all stops. It's also considering documenting all stops, even when there's no arrest.

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