After questioning a black man who appeared to be suspiciously inhaling oxygen and using his body to illegally process said oxygen, Indiana police officers consulted the official police handbook for trumping up charges and arrested an Indianapolis man for loitering at the apartment complex where he lives.
According to RTV 6, Jaquon Dean was working on his car in the parking lot of his Indianapolis apartment when he was approached by a uniformed officer with the words “police” prominently affixed to his uniform. Dean began filming the confrontation after the officer asked for
“How am I loitering if I live on this property?” Dean asked the man identified as James Reynolds. “You don’t know if I’m fixing my car; if I’m waiting to leave or not. So why is you walking up saying I’m loitering?”
“Do you know the definition of loitering?” Reynolds responded. “Get on Google right now and look up the definition of the word.”
When Dean insisted there was no justification for Officer Reynolds asking him for identification, Reynolds responded: “There ain’t no fake security here. Everybody’s police officers,” and insisting that he was not a “fake police officer” as Dean contended.
In the footage, another officer entered the frame and Dean asked for his badge number. The officer complied, answering: “You can film me all you want. I really don’t give a shit.”
In a calm voice, Dean repeatedly asked the officers what was the crime that necessitated him offering up his identification. The situation escalated and ended with the officers pulling Dean out of his car in the parking lot of his home, and arresting him while warning him to “Stop tensing up!”
Dean was arrested for resisting arrest and “refusing to identify,” an Indiana statute that requires a person to give their name, address and date of birth to “a law enforcement officer who has stopped the person for an infraction or ordinance violation.”
But was Jaquon Dean wrong?
James Reynolds is not an Indianapolis police officer.
Even though the word “police” was emblazoned across his chest, James Reynolds does not appear to have been acting in the capacity of a police officer when he asked Dean for his identification. According to RTV, “Reynolds runs a security company, Reynolds Security Consulting Corp., out of Plainfield and is also a reserve officer for the town of Sheridan.”
As far as Dean’s refusal to identify himself, Indiana law does indeed require people who are reasonably suspected of a crime to identify themselves. And Indiana’s loitering code does say that refusing to identify oneself gives police reasonable suspicion to believe a suspect may have violated the loitering law.
But if Dean had simply followed Reynolds’ instructions and Googled the Indiana loitering law, he would have discovered that the definition for loitering specify that it must take place in a public “way, street, highway, place or alley.”
Furthermore, in Adam Starr v. The State of Indiana (pdf), an Indiana appeals court reversed the conviction of a man who was arrested for refusing to identify himself to police when he wouldn’t give police his ID as the passenger of a car during a police stop.
In the decision, the court ruled that: “There was no reasonable suspicion that [Starr] had committed an infraction or ordinance violation, giving rise to an obligation to identify himself upon threat of criminal prosecution,” adding that the Refusal to Identify Self-law “criminalizes the refusal to comply with an officer’s lawful request.”
So if Jaquon Dean was on the property where he lived, was he loitering? If Dean was not on public property, as the loitering law requires, how could officers have “reasonable suspicion?” If the officer who asked him for his ID was not actually working as a police officer, was Dean wrong for refusing to identify himself? Also, how can Dean be arrested for resisting arrest?
The answer to all of your questions is ‘yes,’ Dean was wrong. Because, despite what the law says, Jaquon Dean is black and the officers were white. And in Indianapolis, in Indiana and in America, the words of a fake cop using made-up laws trumps the freedom of a black man.
Jaquon Dean is black.
And that is all that matters.