This is rare: A police chief acknowledged a “department failure” when his officers wrongfully arrested a Black man. But will there be consequences?
The Ashland Police Department in Oregon released a statement admitting to the wrongful arrest Monday of a 20-year-old Black man, KVAL-TV reported on Wednesday.
Officers arrested the unidentified man in response to a call about physical harassment at a store, the police said. The suspect was described as a Black man “wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt.”
A short distance away from the crime scene, the cops apparently grabbed the first Black man they saw wearing a hoodie. He was handcuffed and thrown in jail.
Ashland Police Chief Tighe O’Meara promised an investigation.
“At this time, it appears that the officers involved did not take crucial investigatory steps, subsequent to detaining the man, to verify that he was, in fact, the person wanted for the harassment,” the police chief said.
Nationwide, African-American men are disproportionately victims of wrongful convictions and police misconduct, according to a 2017 report from the National Registry of Exonerations.
Black people comprised 47 percent of the 1,900 exonerations in the registry, yet African Americans represent just 13 percent of the U.S. population. Innocent Black people were seven times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people.
Making matter worse, police misconduct was 22 percent more likely in wrongful murder convictions of innocent Black people.
It’s rare for prosecutors and law enforcement to admit to wrongdoing, as Slate has pointed out. Rather than seeking justice, they all too often are focused on getting convictions.
In the Ashland case, O’Meara doubts that the wrongful arrest was intentional, but says the department and elected officials “recognize this as a police department failure.”