A police department in the Indianapolis suburb of Fishers, Indiana, is doing damage control after posting a picture of an African-American man outside a home and describing him as “suspicious” because he didn’t live in the area.
The photo, posted to Facebook last Thursday, sparked accusations of racial profiling from users who took offense to the Fisher Police Department post, which described the Black man as driving a “beat up” car, and said he had no “legitimate reason to be in the area.”
The post in question has been deleted and Police Chief Edward Gebhart apologized Friday, saying the department was “wrong” to have posted the man’s photo without a full explanation as to why residents were told to be wary of him in the first place.
“We were wrong by not releasing the full facts of the situation that prompted the original post,” Gebhardt said. “It’s never our intent to discriminate or judge any individual in any incident in Fishers.”
In a follow-up post, Gebhardt said he had met with the man and his family, and said their conversation was “extremely productive” and “positive.”
“The individual in the video did want to clear the air, [and] agreed that his actions could be construed as suspicious,” Gebhart added. The family has asked that we remove the initial social media post and we intend to support their wishes.”
In the original post, a department spokesman wrote that a man was “caught on camera” standing on the porch of a home on the city’s east side. Security footage captured the man commenting on the presence of surveillance cameras on the home.
The post acknowledged there was no “evidence that this man committed a crime” and that his intentions at the home were unknown.
“However, based on the information gathered by FPD it appears the man had no legitimate reason for being in the area and he was deterred by the presence of the security cameras,” it continued. “During the initial investigation, officers spoke with neighbors and they reported seeing the man arrive in the area driving a silver ‘beat up’ Chrysler passenger car. We are asking residents to immediately report suspicious activity, people, and vehicles to 911. Please Share!”
Gebhart later expressed regret over the “incomplete” post and wrote that the department should’ve explained why the man was deemed suspicious. He said the man on video was heard saying, “We can’t hit this house. They have cameras. I didn’t see them until I walked up,” which led authorities to suspect “intent to commit criminal activity.”
In a separate post, Gebhart explained that the man’s mother said her son was going door-to-door looking for odd jobs.
Not everyone bought the chief’s apology for not giving enough context, however, and accused police of criminalizing the man because of his skin color.
“This post translates to me that a black man in a ‘beat up’ car isn’t welcome in Fishers. Really?!?” one Facebook user commented, according to the Indy Star. “If that isn’t what you MEANT to convey, I ask you, Fishers PD, to clarify. If, even if you didn’t realize it, that is what you meant, then please schedule your anti-bias and diversity training ASAP.”
“I hope this is a learning experience for the FPD to be better and do better.
It is our duty to advocate for minorities and their fair treatment,” another user chimed in.
Not everyone took issue with the FPD’s post and thanked the department for keeping them alert about suspicious activity. Some argued that race had nothing to do with it. Fishers, named by CNN Money in 2017 as the best place in America to live, is more than 85 percent white.
“I don’t care what color or nationality you are, if you are standing on my porch looking suspicious I’m gonna want it checked out too. Good job FPD!” one user commented.
“Keep up the good work Fishers PD!” added another. “Don’t let those leftist political correctness merchants deter you from doing the right thing. The job of the police is public safety, not appeasing whiny interest groups from Indianapolis.”
Going forward Fishers PD, has promised to keep the community abreast of any critical information “[and] also the context and motivations behind the information.”