Man Claims Racial Profiling by Melrose Police

Matthew Perenchio, Jackson County Chronicle (Black River Falls, Wisconsin), May 26, 2010

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Quincey L. Daniels has submitted a letter of complaint to the village [of Melrose] and the police department following an incident where he claims an officer overreacted by yelling and reaching for his gun when he exited his vehicle.

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Daniels–an African American who teaches race and ethnic studies at Viterbo–said he is upset over the incident that occurred in front of his family at Melrose Express last Thursday during a license plate violation.

“In the southern areas of the United States this can be a common occurrence, but I hardly expected this from the police department in my own small community,” said Daniels, who’s lived in Mindoro since 2000.

“I worry about a situation where there’s a nervous officer, and my daughter is walking around.”

The incident occurred at about 3 p.m. May 20. {snip} Daniels reportedly had his rear license plate displayed in the back window, but it had fallen down.

Officer Brandon Arnold–who was on his second day with the department–issued the traffic stop with Sgt. Nick Gray; both officers are Caucasian. However, Daniels reportedly didn’t see the emergency lights and continued to Melrose Express.

When Daniels exited his vehicle, Arnold reportedly loudly ordered him to get back into his vehicle, and Arnold placed his hand near his sidearm. Daniels got back into his vehicle and was later issued a verbal warning for the license plate by Gray.

Daniels said he feels Arnold’s reactions were based on prejudices of African Americans.

“At this point I am angry and distrustful, and I need to take a moment to reflect that this was a dangerous situation and that this officer . . . could have been going on an assumption that African American men are violent and not to be trusted.”

Melrose Police Chief Cal Smokowicz said he has reviewed the situation and police car video footage, and he said race was not a factor in the traffic stop or the officer’s actions.

“It’s ridiculous to even suggest that any Melrose officer would ever engage in racial profiling,” Smokowicz said. “There’s no way I would ever tolerate that. They’d be fired.

“There isn’t any profiling for people who live in the village or those who live outside the village. I don’t care who you are–if you’re violating the law, you will be stopped.”

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Smokowicz said it’s the department’s intent to issue an apology but noted the apology will only be based on Arnold’s demeanor. Smokowicz said Melrose officers do not attempt to cause public disturbances during traffic stops or questioning, but he said Arnold didn’t do anything incorrect based on training.

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Smokowicz said officers are trained that when a subject exits a vehicle unannounced during a traffic stop they expect the subject to either flee or become confrontational.

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“Usually, from what I’ve seen, when someone’s trying to get away, they’re running at breakneck speed,” Daniels said. “I was walking, and I had my back towards them.

“Granted the officer was new, but that is no excuse for actions committed in the supposed line of duty. . . . Even in the military I was taught when you brandish a weapon, you have to be ready to use it. Most people do not like the idea of fearing the people who make a promise to serve and protect.”

Smokowicz said the department has not taken nor intends to take any internal disciplinary action, and he considers the matter closed.

Incidentally, Arnold was a student of Daniels’ at Viterbo, although the two didn’t recognize each other during the encounter last week.

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“I can only hope that one day it will not be necessary to teach a race and ethnic studies course in order to get people to acknowledge and accept differences. I still believe that we have a great community, even if we do have our challenges.”

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