Christopher Franklin of Seattle believes he and Josh Lawson are being harrassed by cops in retaliation for failed attempts to prosecute them earlier. Police in the United States routinely target African Americans., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
News from Seattle and the Northwest
Was police stop coincidence or pay back?
by Paula Wissel
April 9, 2012
Was a Seattle police stop of two African American men in February just a coincidence or, as some are suggesting, "retaliation" for the publicity surrounding a previous stop?
The NAACP says it wants answers from Seattle Police.
In February of this year, KOMO-TV aired a report about the arrest of Josh Lawson and Christopher Franklin, both in their 20's, as alleged suspects in an assault. They were booked, but then released and charges were never filed. On dashboard camera video, obtained through a public records request, you can hear a police officer telling Franklin he can just "make up charges."
Lawson and Franklin are now represented by attorneys who have notified the city of Seattle that they plan to sue.
Just a week after the KOMO-TV story went viral and the notice of suit was filed, Lawson and Franklin were again stopped by Seattle police.
At a news conference in Seattle, Josh described the late night stop. He says he was looking in his rearview mirror and saw a line of police cars with lights flashing. He pulled over. He says he and his friends were held at gunpoint and their car was searched.
"It was unreal. It was frightening to know that that force with all those guns were around me. I could barely think. I had butterflies that lasted longer than it should last in any man," he said.
James Bible, attorney and former NAACP President a, says he sees this sort of thing happen to young black men all the time, noting that Lawson and Franklin were released following the stop and search.
"There was no ticket issued, no infraction, no charge, it was just harassment and humiliation," he said.
The difference in this case, says Bible, is that these two men had just been featured in a high profile story about police misconduct.
"It's either a horrible coincidence or a horrible retaliation," he said.
Attorneys for Lawson and Franklin are seeking the dashboard camera video from the latest police stop, which happened on February 19. They say the city of Seattle has continually put them off saying they need more time to retrieve the material.
Sean Whitcomb, Seattle Police spokesman, declined to comment on the NAACP press conference because of the claim filed against the city. He did, however, release some information on the February 19 police stop.
Whitcomb calls the stop a "Street Check." He says it's sometimes referred to as a "Field Interview Report." Whitcomb assesses the report this way:
•The stop appears based on reasonable suspicion.
•The stop appears consistent with training.
•The occupants of the stopped car were very cooperative.
•No criminal activity is believed to have occurred.
•The stop was screened by a supervisor.