Iowa Judge Drops Charges Against Black Man Stopped for Jaywalking by Cop Who Waved for Him to Cross the Street

Illustration for article titled Iowa Judge Drops Charges Against Black Man Stopped for Jaywalking by Cop Who Waved for Him to Cross the Street
Screenshot: ABC 9

Charges have been dropped against a Black man who was arrested in Iowa City, Iowa, last year after he was stopped by a police officer for jaywalking. Based on police body camera footage, a federal judge decided that what the arresting officer purported to be a legitimate stop was really a clear case of racial profiling and ruled that the arrest was unlawful.

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From ABC 9:

Christopher Kelly, of Chicago, was walking to his aunt’s house from the Hy-Vee on Waterfront Drive when police received a call for a Black man who possibly had a gun. Officer Travis Neeld and the SCAT division waited and located Kelly. In newly-obtained body camera footage, Neeld could be seen waving Kelly to cross the street. That was when he stopped Kelly for jaywalking.

Neeld asked Kelly for his name, to which Kelly gave a false name and didn’t provide identification. Kelly reached for his wallet in his back pocket, which was when the first sense of distress came as Neeld undid the buttons on his service weapon and asked Kelly not to reach for anything unless he told him what he was reaching for.

Neeld continued to lecture Kelly about jaywalking and impeding traffic. That was when several other officers arrived and told Kelly to put his hands on his head. Kelly, confused, resisted the officers and was tackled to the ground. Neeld then tased Kelly several times while officers held him down.

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Police did find an illegal firearm and a bag of marijuana on Kelly, but that didn’t matter because it turns out that when a cop is recorded gesturing for a citizen to cross the street and then stopping them for jaywalking, a fair-minded judge will appropriately call bullshit.

According to ABC, Judge Stephanie Rose threw the evidence against Kelly out, said Neeld was not credible and that police need more than a hunch to stop someone, and denounced the arrest as a case of “walking while Black.”

Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how clear the police misconduct is, it isn’t enough to get a cop removed from the force—so Neeld is still patrolling the streets of Iowa City. Johnson County and federal prosecutors decided Neeld’s actions were lawful and the Iowa City Police Department said he didn’t violate policy. To make matters worse, Neeld was given the role of Community Outreach Officer and tasked with building a better relationship between police officers and the community. (This is like making Wile E. Coyote the chairman for Road Runner Lives Matter.)

The real question is: How are the courts supposed to trust any arrest made by Neeld in the future?

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More from ABC:

Sara Riley, a civil rights attorney in Cedar Rapids, said the incident presents a legal issue for Neeld’s ability to do his job in the future, too.

“When you have a federal court judge saying this officer is not credible, every time he makes an arrest and the case goes to trial, he’s going to be cross-examined on the fact that the judge, Judge Rose, has said ‘you are not credible,’” Riley said.

Riley said it is rare for a judge to be so blunt in criticizing an officer’s actions as an example of systemic racism.

“Normally you hear a judge saying ‘racially-profiled,’ or something, but to actually say he was arrested for ‘walking while Black,’” Riley said. “She made no bones about it. She just came flat out and said ‘this man was targeted due to his race.’”

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Stop-and-frisk is still stop-and-frisk no matter what weak and dishonest excuses cops come up with to justify targeting Black people. What Iowa City and all of America needs is fewer cops like Neeld and more judges like Rose.

Zack Linly is a poet, performer, freelance writer, blogger and grown man lover of cartoons

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DISCUSSION

I’m mad and distressed about the obvious racially profiling. I’m also mad and distressed dude was carrying around an illegal gun and some drugs and that the cops most likely knew they found the man they were looking for.

Legally, this is the just outcome. But that’s about it.