When an African American ‘fits the description’

Charles Belk’s Facebook page.
Well, this is, according to Beverly Hills police, “unfortunate.”

That’s the best the cops could do yesterday to explain why they handcuffed Charles Belk, a film producer who allegedly matched the description of a bank robber — large, and bald, and black.

“The Beverly Hills Police Department deeply regrets the inconvenience to Mr. Belk and has reached out to him to express those regrets and further explain the circumstances,” the statement from police said. It also said his detention was “proper.”

Mr. Belk’s story got attention after he posted it on Facebook.


It’s one of those things that you hear about, but never think it would happen to you.

On Friday afternoon, August 22nd around 5:20pm, while innocently walking by myself from a restaurant on Wilshire Blvd, to my car up LaCienega Blvd my freedom was taken from me by the Beverly Hills Police Department.

Within seconds, I was detained and told to sit on the curb of the very busy street, during rush hour traffic.

Within minutes, I was surrounded by 6 police cars, handcuffed very tightly, fully searched for weapons, and placed back on the curb.

Within an hour, I was transported to the Beverly Hills Police Headquarters, photographed, finger printed and put under a $100,000 bail and accused of armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank.

Within an evening, I was wrongly arrested, locked up, denied a phone call, denied explanation of charges against me, denied ever being read my rights, denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time, and denied being told that my car had been impounded…..All because I was mis-indentified as the wrong “tall, bald head, black male,” … “fitting the description.”

I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know at the time that I was a law abiding citizen of the community and that in my 51 years of existence, had never been handcuffed or arrested for any reason. All they saw, was someone fitting the description. Doesn’t matter if he’s a “Taye Diggs BLACK”, a “LL Cool J BLACK”, or “a Drake BLACK”

I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was an award nominated and awarding winning business professional, most recently being recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal at their Nonprofit & Corporate Citizenship Awards. They didn’t need to because, they saw someone fitting the description.

I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a BS in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University (including a full Consortium Fellowship to business school) and an Executive Leadership Certificate from Harvard Business School. Hey, I was “tall”, “bald”, a “male” and “black”, so I fit the description.

I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a Consultant for the NAACP, a film and tv producer, a previous VP of Marketing for a wireless application company, VP of Integrated Promotions for a marketing agency, ran Community Affairs for the Atlanta Hawks, was the Deputy Director of Olympic Village Operations for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, was a Test/Quality/Mfg Engineering Manager for IBM and was a Bond Trader on Wall street. Surely, folks that fit the description wouldn’t qualify as any of those.

I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that throughout my entire life I have been very active in serving the communities that I have lived in, including Chapter President and National PR Chair for NSBE, a USC Student Senator, a USC Trojan Knight, a USC Engineering Student Council Member, a USC Black Students Council Member, and a Resident Assistant; as well as a founding board member of the RTP NBMBAA, a member of Durham County Transportation Advisory Board, Durham City / County Planning Commission, Atlanta House of Love for the Homeless Board, Cobb County Transportation Advisory Board, Georgia CASA Board, United Way of Greater Atlanta VIP Selection Committee, Jomandi Theater Board, Silver Lake Film Festival Board, Downtown LA Film Festival Board, Chaka Khan Foundation Fundraising Dinner Committee, and the USC Black Alumni Association Board. Nawl, not a “black male”, especially a “tall, bald” one.

I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that just hours earlier, I was at one of the finest hotels in their city, handling celebrity talent at a Emmy Awards Gifting Suite, as part of business as usual, and, invited to attend a VIP Emmy pre-party that very night in their city. The guy doing that, just DON”T fit the description.

What I don’t get………WHAT I DON”T GET, is, why, during the 45 minutes that they had me on the curb, handcuffed in the sun, before they locked me up and took away my civil rights, that they could not simply review the ATM and bank’s HD video footage to clearly see that the “tall, bald headed, black male”… did not fit MY description.

Why, at 11:59pm (approximately 6 hours later), was the video footage reviewed only after my request to the Lead Detective for the Beverly Hills Police Department and an FBI Agent to do so, and, after being directly accused by another FBI Special Agent of “…going in and out of the bank several times complaining about the ATM Machine to cause a distraction…” thereby aiding in the armed robbery attempt of a bank that I never heard of, or ever been to; and within 10 minutes……10 MINUTES, my lawyer was told that I was being release because it was clear that it was not me.

The sad thing is, prior to my freedom being taken from me for an easily proven crime I did not commit, I was walking back to my car, by myself, because I needed to check my parking meter, so that I wouldn’t get a ticket and break the law. In fact, if it wasn’t for a text message that I was responding to, I would have actually been running up LaCienega Blvd when the first Beverly Hills Police Officer approached me. Running!

I want to thank GOD, Robin Lola Harrison of the NAACP Hollywood Bureau, Robert Dowdy and Attorney Jaaye Person-Lynn , without whom, I am certain that I would still be locked up in the custody of the Beverly Hills Police Department. Based on comments made by a Beverly Hills Police Officer during my booking, and an FBI Special Agent, it appeared that they had tried and convicted me.

To everyone, especial black males (regardless of height, hair style or particular shade of “black”) – Hari Williams, Michael Marcel, Reginald L Shaw, Shawn Carter Peterson, Devon Libran, Aaron D Spears, Cedric Sanders, Cornelius Smith Jr, Catfish Jean, Ashford Thomas, Drew McCaskill, Carlton Jordan, Jawn Murray, AS Lee, Bertrand L Roberson Sr, Deron Benjamin, Hawk Oau, James Alan Belk, Juhahn Jones, Darryl Dunning II, Darrin Dewitt Henson, Stephen Bishop, Logan Alexander, Brandon Dmico Anderson, Jon Covington, Lamar Stewart, David Mitchell, Gerald Andre Radford, Gerald Edwin Rush II, Gerald Yates, etal, – I have always stayed as far away from being on the wrong side of the law as much as possible; so please, be careful. If something like this can happen to ME, it can certainly happen to ANYONE!

Time has come for a change in the way OUR law enforcement officers “serve and protect” us.


Peace and Blessings…

  • kevinfromminneapolis

    He has a great point, especially in regard to why no one bothered to compare him to surveillance video images.

    • jon

      If all the police had was a description over the radio of “Tall, Black, Bald, Male” they did the right thing in detaining him. Though they have 48 hours to charge him, and it seems like the rushed through that part… they should have read him his rights, and granted him a phone call (how his lawyer showed up with out one is confusing to me).
      They should have verified his appearance against the video as a matter of course before charging him…

      But if he was in the area where a crime had been committed, and he fit the admittedly vague description that would likely be radioed out, then he should have been detained, and questioned… but only until they could verify if it was the same guy… every hour they spend holding the wrong guy not looking for the right one is a wasted hour.

      I would expect if a vague description of me was sent out (FYI: they did catch a burglar in my neighborhood who would share my same vague description) and I was in the vicinity I would expect police to stop and question me, I would also expect that if I didn’t commit the crime and they had a photo of the guy who did it would be compared…

      I think that there were some things handled poorly by the police here, but I think they were well with in their rights to stop him and hold him until they reviewed the video (though they should have done that much much much sooner)

      • http://www.fark.com/ Onan

        “denied being able to speak to my lawyer for a lengthy time”

        He apparently WAS able to contact his lawyer, but only for a brief time.

        If *I* were this guy, I’d sue them into next year…

  • raflw

    If the description of the suspect had been large, bald white man, would the arrest and detention of a dozen or more men likely to be in the area “proper”?
    I seriously do not think so.

    This looks like very lazy policing. There’s a black dude, he fits a bland and very vague description, so HE MUST BE THE GUY! The entire Beverly Hills P.D. should be mortified. And take some time for evaluation of procedures and training.

    • http://blogs.mprnews.org/newscut/ Bob Collins

      I don’t know what the MPR News policy is anymore, not being associated with the editing staff much, but this is exactly why we DIDN’T give out descriptions of suspects in crime stories the way a lot of news organizations do. They were almost ALWAYS as vague as this one.

    • theoacme

      Police do have stereotyping and profiling issues against white people, too…

      …I was once profiled as having had driving while under the influence issues by a police lieutenant, despite my never having driven a motorized vehicle of any kind at the time, as I was neither in a farming family, nor in possession of a drivers’ licence or permit (as I was fourteen years old at that time), nor a consumer of any alcoholic beverages.

      As for lazy policing, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is even more culpable than the BHPD, as they are supposedly the crème de la crème of police in the United States (the amount of tax dollars that we provide for their training and salaries is rather substantial). The FBI agents involved need some serious public self-criticism sessions.

  • theoacme

    Jim Crow is alive and well, and living everywhere in America.

    If I could renounce my citizenship, and leave the United States, I would…

    …except, this is MY country!!! All these racist persons, all of whom are an immediate and irremediable threat to my life, liberty, and Constitutionally-compliant pursuit of happiness – YOU get out! I don’t care where you go, just go.

    And when you do go, all of you relics from the evil days of institutionally enshrined slavery and misogyny, I pray that you all channel Jim, from Huckleberry Finn:

    “All right, then! I’ll go to hell!”