In 2021, a Michigan realtor and his clients were interrupted during a property showing by a few Wyoming cops who mistook them for burglars. Their lawsuit alleging racial profiling was thrown out Tuesday after a federal judge found the officers had “probable cause” to detain them, per Grand Rapids Press.
Eric Brown was showing a home to Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son when a couple of Wyoming Police officers arrived on the property with their guns drawn ordering them to leave. Reports say the cops were looking for a squatter they’d previously arrested. A neighbor called 911 insisting Brown was who they were looking for because his vehicle resembled the suspect’s.
As a result, the three were detained but were let go after the officers identified them. Though, they weren’t willing to let this obvious instance of racial profiling go under the bus. Brown and his client filed a lawsuit against the police officers alleging false imprisonment, excessive force and equal-protection violations, per the report. However, a federal judge wasn’t convinced by their accusations.
Read more from Grand Rapids Press:
In an opinion issued Tuesday, Feb. 28, U.S. District Judge Hala Jarbou in Lansing said that five officers who responded to the call had qualified immunity. They had probable-cause to detain the three after a caller reported that a “‘young black man’” is “‘back there again’” she wrote.
“Probable cause in this case stems not only from a reasonably trustworthy eyewitness but also from the corroboration of the eyewitness’s assertions by the individual officers on the scene,” Jarbou wrote in her 32-page opinion.
She said that the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has held that an officer “‘is entitled to qualified immunity if he or she could reasonably (even if erroneously) have believed that the arrest was lawful, in light of … the information possessed at the time of the arresting agent.’”
The judge also said the plaintiffs could not show that they were treated differently than “any similarly situation individual of another race … .”
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Brown and his client weren’t the only ones subject to a situation like this.
A pastor in Alabama was arrested while watering his neighbor’s flowers (as he was requested) because another nosey neighbor called the police. In that case, the officers were more aggressive in their approach after he refused to provide his identification though he wasn’t entitled to. As a result, he filed a lawsuit claiming the officers violated his First and Fourth Amendment rights.
Only in some cases have racial profiling complaints been handled seriously. For the many others, the court follows a strict guideline on how to rule on something being a result of racism. Often, most of the people making these decisions deny racism even exists.