Earl Sampson, 28, an employee of 207 Quickstop in Miami Gardens, has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police officers 258 times, searched more than 100 times, and arrested 62 times (56 times including jail), for one thing: Working While Black.
The police officers who have constantly profiled and harassed Sampson claimed his crime was trespassing — at his own job, reports The Miami Herald.
Alex Saleh, 36, Quickstop’s owner, was tired of police officers harassing his patrons and employees, so he installed 15 video cameras around the store to catch them in the act.
Over the course of a year and a half, police officers were captured employing racist tactics — either for the purpose of padding crime statistics or simply because they’re drunk with power — to harass Sampson and other citizens in predominately Black Miami Gardens.
Read more from The Miami Herald’s exclusive report:
One video, recorded on June 26, 2012, shows Sampson, clearly stocking coolers, being interrupted by MGPD Sgt. William Dunaske, who orders him to put his hands behind his back, and then handcuffs him, leads him out of the store and takes him to jail for trespassing.
More than once, Saleh has told police that Sampson is an employee and is not trespassing.
On that June arrest report, obtained by The Herald, police explained the trespass arrest, saying that Sampson was arrested for loitering outside the store when in fact the video, which has a date and time stamp, clearly shows him being handcuffed and arrested inside the store.
FDLE records show that Sampson was stopped at least once a week for the past four years, and sometimes several times a week and even as many as three times in one day. The stops are often conducted by the same police officers, who have arrested him time and time again.
“I never felt they had any probable cause,” Sampson said. “They hop out of the car and search me before they even ask me for my name.”
Police Chief Matthew Boyd issued a statement defending his department’s conduct and commitment to “protect and serve,” but Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Florida, challenged him on the empty rhetoric:
“Where is the police chief in all this? In a police department in a city this size, this kind of behavior could not escape his attention. Doesn’t the City Commission know that they are exposing the city to either massive liability for civil rights violations? Either that, or they are going to wake up one day and find the U.S. Department of Justice has taken over its police department.”
Saleh is in the process of filing a federal civil rights lawsuit, contending that the police department and Miami Garden’s top leaders are complicit in routine racial profiling, illegal stops and searches and other activities to cover up illegal misconduct, the Herald reports.
Miami Gardens, which was incorporated in 2003, is 76 percent Black, with approximately 20 percent of its residents living below the poverty line.
The positioning of Blackness as a criminal offense is certainly not new, but the recent spotlight on issues such as New York’s discriminatory Stop-and-Frisk policy have captured the nation’s attention.
As I previously reported for NewsOne, only 1.5 percent of Stop-and-Frisk arrests have resulted in a jail or prison sentence, according to an in-depth analysis released by the New York Attorney General’s Office. Even more telling, only 0.1 percent of all arrests under the policy led to a conviction for a violent crime.
The Shop-and-Frisk phenomenon —Trayon Christian and Kayla Phillips both have lawsuits pending against Barneys after being accosted by police who accused them of stealing items from the store after making purchases — has also shed light on the fact that city streets and stores become landmines for Black Americans. Only in this war-zone, it doesn’t take one false move to encounter danger, it only takes one racist with authority and a badge to wield it.
Read more about Sampson’s story and see the incriminating videos at The Miami Herald.