When I was told that it would cost an average of $5,000 and up to 6 months to remove the arrest record resulting from my wrongful arrest, I passionately launched an email campaign on social media, targeting the arresting law enforcement agency. I couldn’t believe it was going to cost me money and time to delete any record of me being arrested, especially given the fact that I was completely innocent, and had a document given to me that evening by the arresting agency saying that this “…was a detention only, not an arrest.” That social media driven campaign created attention and within 4 or 5 days, my arrest record was no longer in the system.
That quick turn around of my own arrest record situation ignited a passion inside of me that lead me to believe that it should be that simple and easy for anyone and everyone that was wrongfully arrested and declared innocent at the end of their process. From that was born the We Can Make A Difference petition at change.org to automatically erase the arrest record of innocent individuals that were wrongfully arrested. The petition is addressed to the 50 state Attorney Generals and the US Attorney General.
Encouraged by the immediate passion that was expressed by 2 state legislators from 2 different states to introduce legislation in their respective chambers, I decided that there may be an opportunity to engage the help of other state legislators. With luck and passion on my side, I decided to make my way to Washington, DC for a week — for the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), and Capitol Hill!
Within a week, the #AutoErase team (because it has truly been a team effort, people from all over the country doing whatever they can to help with the cause), was able to get me meetings with my two US Senators, my US Congressman, a US Congressman from Nevada, and on four different panel discussions while I was in town for the CBC. A feat that was, if anything, short of amazing in such a short period of time. So big thanks to the #AutoErase team — i.e., anyone that shared my passion and took an action by offering suggestions or connections on Facebook, any legislative aid that took the call or email from me and championed it through the process, or anyone that just took the time out to connect me to someone else that connected me to someone else, that got me a meeting with a US Congress member or on a panel.
After being denied meetings with the US Department of Justice Attorney General office, it wasn’t until Kaye Meier from Senator Boxer’s office arranged for me to have a call with the Department of Justice, that I truly realized that when others share your passion, it leads to action!
Change is happening. And it is very exciting. Make sure you tell YOUR story. Become passionate about the change you want to see take place, and then engage others that share that passion!
Charles Belk is a Digital Marketing Executive and an Independent Film Producer based in Los Angeles. He was wrongfully arrested on August 22, 2014, and held under a $100,000 bail for armed bank robbery.
TWITTER: @charlesbelk, FACEBOOK: /charlesbelk