Chesterfield NAACP: Can’t allow police to continue policing themselves

CHESTERFIELD, Va. – The Chesterfield County Branch NAACP listed three demands for Chesterfield Police after a traffic stop where police used pepper spray and a Taser on a 22-year-old black male.

Chesterfield Police invited the media to view the body camera footage of the incident, ahead of the press conference, and said there were "significant inconsistencies" with their account.

The first demand from the NAACP was that new Chesterfield Police Chief Col. Jeffrey S. Katz create a policy which allows for release of body camera footage via Freedom of Information Act.

“Harboring information, not being open with public, there is no reasonable excuse for that,” said Tavorise K. Marks with the NAACP.

The officers involved in the traffic stop received additional one on one training, but Marks called for disciplinary action to be taken.

“Sometimes it takes a little bit more than training,” Marks said. “We have to assure we have the right people on the street.”

Thirdly, Marks called for the Board of Supervisors and Chesterfield County Police Department to create a community review board with three citizens and both an active and retired law enforcement officer, who would work to review complaints of excessive force.

“We can’t allow police to continue policing themselves,” Marks said. “We want to ensure community has a voice in these issues.”

THE TRAFFIC STOP

The video showed an officer pull over James Monk for dark window tint at 12:30 a.m. on March 28. The traffic stop took place in Ettrick, not far from Virginia State University at James Street and 2nd Avenue.

Monk explained to the officer that he does not own the vehicle, and police confirm it never came back registered to him.

The officer called for backup because he said he smelled marijuana and wanted to search the car.

Police attempted to handcuff Monk while they searched the car, per standard operating procedure.

The video showed Monk almost immediately resist officers when he got out of the car. He maintained he did not do anything wrong and repeated that throughout the incident.

Monk was warned that he would be pepper sprayed if he would not roll onto his stomach.

The woman with Monk, who was not handcuffed, could be heard telling him “get on your stomach.”

Monk was pepper-spray once but would not roll on to his stomach. He was given more warnings, and then sprayed again. The officer then warned Monk multiple times that he would use the Taser next.

The Taser could be heard in the background, as the officer twice utilized a warning arc discharge from the Taser; a function used by law enforcement to deter a subject without deploying the Taser cartridge.

Over two minutes elapsed after Monk was first pepper sprayed, and then the officer deployed the Taser.

Monk told the media Thursday that the whole event was “crazy” and said he was blind through much of it from the pepper spray.

He maintains he did everything he should have to make the incident go smoothly, though the video shows Monk resist being handcuffed. He said the force wasn't necessary because he never did anything wrong.

When Chesterfield County Police Captain R.F. Horowitz was asked what would have happened if Monk had complied, he responded that they likely would have searched the car, found no marijuana, and released Monk – possibly with just a warning.

“Young black male, tinted windows, they automatically suspect something,” Monk said. “I think things would have been handled better, easier, not got that far to Taser, pepper spray [if police had not pulled over a black man].”

Monk also said that police should stop using the smell of marijuana as a tactic to search vehicles. No marijuana was ever found in the car or on his person.

Capt. Horowitz said a routine use-of-force incident review by internal investigations in early April found some “improper tactics” were used during the stop, and those officers had gone through one on one training.

Horowitz said that the Taser should only be deployed when there is an “immediate threat.”

Police contacted Chesterfield EMS to respond to the scene, as is procedure if a Taser is deployed.

Horowitz said the officer should have removed the Taser prongs from Monk, but the officer wanted EMS to remove the prongs.

Everything else about the stop and methods used by police were acceptable, Horowitz said.

This is only the third time Chesterfield County police have allowed media review of body camera footage. Per policy, they will not release the footage to the public and it will not be available through FOIA.

“It was really hard to go through…being that I wasn’t in the wrong,” Monk said. “Thank God I’m still here.”