ACLU seeks investigation of arrest of black man moving into new home

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By Farnoush Amiri

The ACLU is asking a police department in Kansas to investigate allegations that a black man was arrested while moving into his new home.

Karle Robinson, 61, a former Marine, was allegedly moving a television into his home in Tonganoxie on Aug. 19 when police stopped and detained him at gunpoint for suspected burglary, according to the ACLU of Kansas in a letter to state Attorney General Derek Schmidt.

The civil rights organization calls the episode a case of “moving while black.”

The office of the Attorney General said it has received and reviewed the letter and forwarded it to the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers Standards and Training, per state law.

In a statement to NBC News on Thursday, Tonganoxie Police Chief Greg Lawson said the ACLU letter “contains multiple accusations that are inaccurate,” but that if there were to be an investigation the department intends to “fully cooperate.”

The letter states that at the time of the arrest, Robinson complied with the officer’s directions and began to explain that he was the homeowner and that paperwork inside his home would be able to verify it.

He remained handcuffed until another officer arrived at his home, retrieved the paperwork and uncuffed him, according to the letter.

The officers told Robinson they had detained him due to a recent string of burglaries in the area.

When Robinson went to file a complaint with the department weeks later, outlining his concerns of “racial bias,” the ACLU said he was “obstructed” from doing so by police.

The letter alleges that Chief Lawson told Robinson that he approved of how the officer handled the detainment and that he was “justified” in drawing his weapon and handcuffing him since he “feared for his life.”

Lauren Bonds of the ACLU of Kansas said that the chief’s “conduct raises particularly serious concerns.”

Robinson, who recently moved from Merriam to Tonganoxie, told the ACLU that police routinely followed him and repeatedly harassed him and that it only stopped when he went to the press.

ACLU said that many of the facts police pointed to as the basis for suspicion “are disproved by the body cam footage and are inconsistent with other independently verified facts,” the letter said.

“Each of these incidents would be concerning had they been alleged independently,” the letter reads. “Together, they suggest a pervasive culture of racial bias and systematic process failure within the Tonganoxie Police Department.”

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