This black man, Charles Belk used his negative experience with the police to change the law.
Charles Belk is getting the law changed state my state
In 2014 I wrote a story about Charles Belk’s false arrest. I wrote the following.
Charles Belk is a graduate of Hillside High School in Durham, North Carolina, completed his BS degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Southern California and received an MBA from Indiana University and a Executive Management Certificate from Harvard University School of Business.
On his way to put money in his parking meter he was arrested by several police officers. He was handcuffed tightly. He spent north of 6 hours in the Beverly Hill’s jail. Why? Because he fit the description of a tall bald black male who was possibly involved in a bank robbery.
He was not told why he was arrested. He was treated with disrespect as his pleas went ignored and unanswered. You see to the cops, he was not a person. He was a Black man.
Think about it. Would cops arrest the first blue-eyed blond White man that fit a description and was not acting suspiciously? Even if they did, would they be more careful and listen to his pleas to be sure they had the right person? How many stories have been heard of White criminals released just because the cops were not sure? The Beverly Hills cops did not even have the decency to validate his picture with available videos in the six hours he was held.
Charles Belk said generally he would have been running to the meter. A text turned out to be his angel. One knows a running Black man as a bank robbing suspect is likely a shot dead black man.
It is not only inner city pants sagging Black men that are harassed by law enforcement. It was easy for many to immediately feel comfort after Darren Wilson’s execution of Michael Brown in Ferguson Missouri because Brown was seen in a store video shoplifting and roughing up the store owner. How many consoled their guilt by assuming Michael Brown could have been a bad Black man and brought it on to himself – as if shoplifting was punishable by death.
Follow up with Charles Belk at the DNC
While attending the Democratic National Convention as a Bernie Sanders delegate, I got an IM from a friend at KPFT 90.1 FM who told me that Charles Belk was also there. She asked if I wanted to connect with him. I had not heard about him in a while and wanted to chat about what had happened since the horrid event. We met that evening and arranged for an interview the next day.
I was intrigued by Mr. Belk’s calm even under the bizarre circumstances of his arrest. I understood why while speaking to him. He understands the systemic nature of the problem that afflicts the vast majority of men (and women) of color when they have a police encounter. What he also understands is that after the encounter, the effects can linger in many forms. A false arrest does not end upon release. An arrest record remains. Charles found that out by chance a week or so after his arrest.
The problems from a false arrest do not end upon release. An arrest record remains. A background check will indicate an arrest for any individual detained and booked by the police. It affects job applicants, school applicants, credit applicants, rental property applicants, and much more. Mr. Belk knew he could do something.
Mr. Belk started the #AutoErase petition at change.org. The petition demands the following of all local, state, and federal entities.
This petition requires all local, state and federal agencies to automatically erase and destroy all information pertaining to arrest records of innocent individuals wrongfully arrested, immediately after the innocent individual is no longer being detained by the arresting agency, and insure the arrest record appears in no local, state or federal agency’s database.
It also requires that, under such circumstances, the innocent individual’s record appears as it did before the wrongful arrest ever occurred, at no expense or actions required by the innocent individual that was incorrectly arrested.
Finally, it requires that, under such circumstances, the innocent individual can proceed in the future and be legally and factually allowed to deny the arrest under ALL circumstances, including, but not limited to, applying for a state-issued professional license, applying for a law-enforcement job, applying for a school-related job, buying a firearm or applying for a concealed carry permit, running for public office, or candidate for state bar.
As Mr. Belk built momentum through his individual advocacy with the help of legislators throughout the states, he used the incident as a teaching tool throughout the country. Most importantly he got the petition codified into bills. Several have become law in several states.
|North Carolina (SB233) Law (12/2015)
Colorado (HB1265) Bill Passed
South Carolina (HB3684)
Tennessee (HB2102 / SB2279)
|Illinois (HB169) Law (1/2016)
Rhode Island (HB7094 / SB2421) (Law 7/2016)
Charles Belk understands that this is only one step in the process to make our justice system more accountable to us all. These bills are a beginning.
With all the success Charles Belk has had getting the #AutoErase law on the books throughout the states, he was recently reminded that the underlying nature of systemic racism remains. He was recently profiled and disrespected unlike other travelers while entering the United States at the Canadian border.
The bills Belk is advocating for affect all Americans. This makes them a bit easier to codify into law than the laws necessary to combat the systemic racism, a metastasized cancer in our police departments and justice systems that must be extricated. But the fact the one man can make a difference should give us all hope.