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Police Wrongfully Arrest Young Black Man in Oregon

The department and the city of Ashland "recognize this as a police department failure."

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A 20-year-old Black man from Ashland, Ore., was wrongfully arrested after officers responded to a call about physical harassment at a store in the town.


"The complainant described the suspect as an African American male wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt," reads the statement from APD Chief Tighe O'Meara. "A few minutes later, police officers stopped a person matching that general description a short distance away from the incident, arrested him, and took him to Jackson County Jail."

Interesting. There were no other discerning features such as complexion or hairstyle given to the officers other than a Black man wearing a hoodie.

The arrest happened around 8 p.m. Monday and the unidentified man was not released from custody until 8 a.m. the next morning.

A follow-up investigation into the incident concluded and it was proven that the man arrested was not involved. Later that day, O'Meara spoke with the man and his father at their home, and acknowledged and apologized for the department's wrongful arrest.

The store in question where the harassment was said to to have taken place had surveillance video of the incident. It was seen quickly that the man taken into custody didn't look like the suspect captured on store surveillance video.

That didn't stop officers from arresting the young man who was walking near the location at the time.

The arresting officer, Officer Brett Bibby, a backup officer and a shift supervisor were involved in the detainment to varying degrees.

"We're taking it very seriously," O'Meara said of the false arrest.

"I think there was a failure to conduct some basic follow-up police work. A conclusion was derived much too quickly. He should never have seen the inside of a police car."

The department has decided to perform a secondary investigation into why the wrong man was arrested in the first place.

The population of Ashland City, Ore., is 91.5 percent white and 1.7 percent Black. A 2017 report from the National Registry of Exonerations found that across the country, Black men are disproportionately victims of police misconduct and wrongful convictions.

This isn't the first time that a police department wrongfully arrested someone in Oregon. A white man, Adam Horstman, was wrongfully arrested in another city in Oregon after getting a prescription filled at a local pharmacy, which had been robbed several weeks prior. Unlike the young man in this case, he had been identified by the store manager as the man who'd robbed the store previously. He was awarded $550,000 for his wrongful arrest.

An apology is fair but it does not absolve the Ashland Police Department of their accountability in arresting someone because the officers didn't do their due diligence. The department saw to it that all charges would be dropped and there would be no record of the arrest. However, a monetary compensation would be in order for this young man's pain and suffering.

Reader Question: Given the circumstances behind this young man's arrest, do you think he should be compensated financially?

The Conversation (4)
Antonio Rollins05 Dec, 2018

He should be compensated in the same way the white was, with acceptation of the amount. He spent a night in jail when it was easily determined that he was NOT the perpetrator.

votetocorrect30 Nov, 2018

Two words: Law Suit!

30 Nov, 2018

Yes! Due to his mental anguish from the ordeal.

30 Nov, 2018

Due negligence is condoned where there is no consequence to counter it.

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So when a video of an unidentified white man spewing expletives at an officer, throwing his license at the officer, and threatening to kill the officer, without any physical consequences, started circulating on Twitter, it went viral with more than 1 million views this week.

People of color on Twitter commented that had it been them in the video, they would've had bullets in the chest by the time the truck passed:

There are studies that well document how Blacks have been treated differently by police. In the case traffic stops, whites were 57 percent more likely to be spoken to with respectful language, whereas Black drivers were 61 percent more likely to experience an exchange that was the least respectful. Officers language with the least respect included calling people, "dude, bro, boss, man, brotha, sista or chief".

FBI data found that U.S. police kill Black people at disproportionate rates: Black people accounted for 31 percent of police killing victims in 2012, even though they made up just 13 percent of the U.S. population. And 62.7 percent of unarmed people killed by police are Black.

Yet racists, and some conservatives believe the treatment is deserved because Blacks did something wrong.

For example, in Orlando's International Airport in August, a white male Trump supporter tackled to the ground by police for being a disruptive passenger knew his privilege, when he said, "You're being rough with me. You're f***ing treating me like a Black person."

Reader Question: How does the video of the white man berating the white officer make you feel?

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A white supremacists carries the Confederate flag in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 12, 2017. / REUTERS

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