Westerville, Ohio, 11th July
A Westerville attorney who is a man of color wrote a social media post where he shed a light on an encounter he had with the Westerville police and accused the officers of racial profiling.
Emmanuel D-Law Olawale is an attorney who was on the property of The Olawale Law Firm, LLC, removing some trash bags from the trunk of his car, ready to throw them in the common dumpster when he was approached by two officers in the city of Westerville in Ohio on 11th July around noon.
Emmanuel said that the officers pulled over on the parking lot, left their vehicle and approached him while speaking to him. After he greeted them one of the officers asked “What’s going on here?” To which Emmanuel responded that he was removing trash.
Emmanuel stated that after that, he went to his car and got out his business card which he gave to the leading officer. After that he also provided his driver’s licence so that the officers could reconcile the name on the business card with his official identity card
The officers commented Emmanuel on the look of his business card and explained that they “just wanted to make sure there was no illegal dumping and that everything is alright.”
Expecting that the encounter would be over Emmanuel agreed with the officers that the situation might have looked suspicious since it was the weekend and the parking lot was empty.
Then the junior officer who still held Emmanuel’s ID card asked the leading officer whether he should go to their squad and run his card, to which the leading officer agreed.
Emmanuel protested saying “Please give me back my license. Don’t run my ID I have not committed a crime. I have identified myself. I am on my property, putting trash in my dumpster. You have no legal ground to run my ID”
The officers responded that it is necessary to run the ID of the person they were with so they could document who they were with.
Emmanuel responded “No, you don’t. You can’t detain me on my private property. I am a co-owner of this dumpster. No one called you to investigate a crime. Do you want me to walk you into my suite for you to really verify I have the rights to be here?”
The leading officer then asked, “How can we be sure that all the trash is all yours?”
Emmanuel was quick to respond “I am the only one here, no one else is putting trash in the dumpster. These are all mine. Please don’t let this escalate beyond what it is.” I responded.
The officers said that Emmanuel was the one escalating the situation.
Emmanuel defended himself “I am a lawyer, so I know my rights. I won’t wait here while you run my I.d and get permission from you before I could leave. I am on my property. I volunteered information to you to ease this encounter, but you’re still insisting on treating me like a suspect on my own property. Please give me back my driver’s licence.”
The junior officer who held the driver’s licence wrote some information in his notebook and returned the licence to Emmanuel.
Emmanuel explained that by the end of the encounter his wife and daughter arrived at the parking lot and were witnesses of the end of the encounter. Feeling irritated he concluded his post by saying “For those who often blame victims of police brutality for not complying, you should note that it is not about compliance. It is all about power for police officers.
“When officers encounter Black men in particular, they approach us with suspicion. I complied, presented every evidence to de-escalate the situation, yet they wanted to take it up a notch. They wouldn’t take the word of a Black man for what it is and the evidence before them was not enough. They believe every Black man has some kinds of criminal record or outstanding warrant, that was why they wanted to run my ID
“In the event, I had an outstanding warrant, the routine off-the-cuff encounter would have turned into an arrest when there was no reasonable suspicion for the encounter in the first place or it could have turned deadly. In that event, they will claim the suspect was dangerous, resisting arrest or not complying. “
Since the social media post reached City administrators, the Chief of Westerville Police requested an investigation on the incident on 13th of July.
The Westerville Police released body camera footage from both of the officers present at the encounter.
Charles Chandler, The Chief of Police also issued a statement saying: “The body-worn camera shows a professional and polite encounter between our officers and Mr. Olawale. The entire contact was less than three minutes.
“Additionally, Mr. Olawale offered his identification; the officers did not request it, they accepted his offer to provide the identification. In situations, an officer uses this information to write a report or take a statement. My expectation is that the officers provide as much information as possible during any call to assure our actions are justified, legal and professional.
Mr. Olawale indicates in his own social media post that the inquiry and stop was appropriate. It is very common for law enforcement officers to make these types of inquiries if they suspect illegal dumping or misuse of resources on private property.
Mr. Olawale took his complaint to social media and did not file a report or contact WPD to discuss his concerns. Because of this, I don’t have an incident report or formal complaint and our internal investigation is limited to the conduct of our officers as described on social media and on NBC4. So I’m basing my comments on the body-worn camera, which I find to be completely in line with the expectations of WPD officers.”