Update: Racial profiling incident in Edmonds a hoax

Councilmember scolds police chief for ‘public shaming’
By Brian Soergel | Mar 05, 2018

Here's an update to the original story:

A case of possible racial profiling that spread quickly on social media turned out to be false report.

On March 3, the Edmonds Police Department learned of community concerns that a young black male was stopped by Edmonds police while running down the street on his way to soccer practice at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Social media posts claimed that the stop had been racially motivated, and these concerns were forwarded to the Edmonds Beacon, as well as Mayor Dave Earling and City Council members, by community member Michael Bateman.

Edmonds police launched an investigation, met with the family involved and worked on the case throughout the weekend.

Eventually, the high school student making the claim changed his story.

“He admitted to his family and the investigator that the incident did not occur and that no Edmonds police officer stopped him,” Sgt. Josh McClure said. “We have since been informed that the mother has retracted her original post but, as is the case with social media, the potential damage done to our reputation quickly extended beyond her original post.”

Police Chief Al Compaan, in a statement, did not hide his dismay.

“First, these disheartening and specious allegations have no basis in fact; they are based on a story made up by a young man late for soccer practice, apparently utilizing Edmonds PD as his scapegoat,” he said.

“Second, it is frustrating and disheartening when some members of our community allow themselves to rush to judgment, impugning the integrity and reputation of our professional and dedicated public safety members who serve this community 24/7, a reputation built on integrity and trust.

“This troubling chain of events is a clear reminder to us all: A lack of factual information combined with heightened emotions often result in erroneous conclusions and rarely lead to well-reasoned outcomes.”

Compaan did allow that people can make poor decisions.

“Even though it is frustrating to expend city resources in investigating incidents that never occurred, we understand that people make mistakes, especially young people,” he said.

“We understand and respect that these types of concerns are important to every resident, as they are to us. Our agency, like the community we serve, is diverse in our makeup, and we value the high level of support that we receive from the public.”

Letter writer’s response

The Beacon contacted Michael Bateman, who wrote the letter to the Beacon, the police, mayor and councilmembers, for a comment after the incident was resolved.

“I think it is a good lesson to all of us in how easy it is to get fired up without vetting, potentially wrongly,” Bateman said.

“I am thoroughly impressed by the reactions of both the Edmonds Police Department and City Council. They were evenhanded and levelheaded, not dismissing the complaint nor overreacting to it. They took it very seriously, got in contact with the family right away, and got to the bottom of it.

“In this case it turned out that the young man wasn't telling the truth to his parents, who had believed in him. We all had believed in the parents without waiting for the facts to be teased out – that's a good lesson. It's a good lesson for the young man (and for all young folk) that crying wolf is a serious problem.

“I think that the Edmonds police, council and everyone in a leadership position in Edmonds shined very bright in their compassionate, caring and even response.”

Councilmember calls for meeting

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilmember Mike Nelson said he understood why residents may have had heightened emotions and rushed to judgment after the social media posts.

Nelson referred to recent events in Edmonds, including the incident at Harvey’s Lounge, a noose found at a construction site, swastikas painted on cars and racial slurs written on school buildings.

“In this context, your public shaming of an African-American teenager will not resolve these heightened emotions,” Nelson said, referring to the police chief. "Nor will capturing a suspect make this all go away. Racism by its very nature cannot be arrested away.

“The facts are we have had a series of racial incidents in our community. To heals these wounds will require a deeper engagement with our community. Therefore, I would like to invite our police chief to join me in meeting with our community members who have been most affected by these hateful acts, to listen, and put together a plan that fosters tolerance, acceptance, trust and a safer community for all.”

 

This is the original story

A case of possible racial profiling that spread quickly on social media turned out to be false report.

On March 3, the Edmonds Police Department learned of community concerns that a young black male was stopped by Edmonds police while running down the street on his way to soccer practice at Edmonds-Woodway High School.

Social media posts claimed that the stop had been racially motivated, and these concerns were forwarded to the Edmonds Beacon, as well as Mayor Dave Earling and City Council members.

Edmonds police launched an investigation, met with the family involved and worked on the case throughout the weekend.

Eventually, the high school student making the claim changed his story.

“He admitted to his family and the investigator that the incident did not occur and that no Edmonds police officer stopped him,” Sgt. Josh McClure said. “We have since been informed that the mother has retracted her original post but, as is the case with social media, the potential damage done to our reputation quickly extended beyond her original post.”

Police Chief Al Compaan, in a statement, did not hide his dismay.

“First, these disheartening and specious allegations have no basis in fact; they are based on a story made up by a young man late for soccer practice, apparently utilizing Edmonds PD as his scapegoat,” he said.

“Second, it is frustrating and disheartening when some members of our community allow themselves to rush to judgment, impugning the integrity and reputation of our professional and dedicated public safety members who serve this community 24/7, a reputation built on integrity and trust.

“This troubling chain of events is a clear reminder to us all: A lack of factual information combined with heightened emotions often result in erroneous conclusions and rarely lead to well-reasoned outcomes.”

Compaan did allow that people make mistakes.

“Even though it is frustrating to expend city resources in investigating incidents that never occurred, we understand that people make mistakes, especially young people,” he said.

“We understand and respect that these types of concerns are important to every resident, as they are to us. Our agency, like the community we serve, is diverse in our makeup, and we value the high level of support that we receive from the public.”

 

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