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RAC Responds to Ashland police wrongful arrest

After a 20 year old black man was wrongfully arrested in Ashland and then held in jail overnight even though he did not look like the suspect caught on video, the Rogue Action Center and our partners at the Racial Equity Coalition call on the Ashland Police Department to take the following concrete steps:

  1. Be fully transparent with the community throughout the investigation process

  2. Ensure accountability for APD officers involved in the wrongful arrest

  3. And fully erase the arrest record for the young man who was wronged

In recognition of the systemic nature of racial bias in the criminal justice system, we call on ALL local law enforcement agencies to work with community groups to review training, record keeping, and clear accountability policies to prevent profiling in the future.

The RAC and the Racial Equtiy Coalition have requested a meeting with the Ashland Police Department and other community leaders to offer resources and to ask that these steps be followed. The police department has so far been very responsive and open to a meeting. We look forward to working with them as community partners toward stronger policies and a just resolution for all involved.

UPDATE 12.20.2018: In recognition of the systemic nature of racial bias in the criminal justice system, and in response to the wrongful arrest of an African American man by local police, various community organizations have formed the Southern Oregon Community Policing Ad Hoc Committee.

This committee met with the Ashland Police Department on Monday, December 3rd to discuss concerns regarding the wrongful arrest of an African American man by APD on November 26th and to establish partnership and transparency during the internal APD investigation regarding the incident.

The internal investigation at the Ashland Police Department is now complete and disciplinary actions were taken on December 10th – 14th. The Community Policing Ad Hoc Committee is continuing to track what happens next with APD and is working to review training, record keeping, and accountability policies to ensure an incident like this one does not happen in our community again.

*** Mailtribune Article: Ashland police wrongfully arrest African-American man By Nick Morgan Mail Tribune November 28, 2018 Ashland police say they’re in the midst of determining why officers arrested an innocent African-American man following a disturbance at an Ashland store Monday evening. The 20-year-old was held in the Jackson County Jail Monday overnight on a harassment charge that falsely accused him of making a disturbance at a store along Siskiyou Boulevard. Ashland police Chief Tighe O’Meara said that a basic review of store surveillance video should have been enough to clear the man, who happened to be walking near the store and fit an employee’s basic suspect description of “an African-American male wearing a dark sweatshirt.” The person taken into custody didn’t look like the suspect captured on store surveillance video, according to O’Meara. The harassment case remains unsolved. “I think there was a failure to conduct some basic follow-up police work,” O’Meara said, adding that a conclusion was derived “much too quickly.” “He should never have seen the inside of a police car,” O’Meara said. The man spent roughly 10 hours in jail. He was booked at 9:53 p.m. Monday, and released because of overcrowding at 7:57 a.m. Tuesday, according to Jackson County Jail logs. The man told officers they’d apprehended the wrong person, according to O’Meara, but the chief said it’s a common protest. “He did plead his innocence, but that’s pretty common among suspects,” O’Meara said. Police learned they’d arrested the wrong man Tuesday morning, after the man’s father contacted a police sergeant who used to work as a school resource officer at Ashland High School, where the man had attended school. The father told police the harassment case didn’t fit his son’s character, prompting a review of the evidence. O’Meara said officers failed to determine they had the right suspect in ways such as reviewing surveillance video, bringing in a witness, or confirming the suspect was involved through consensual conversation. “As far as we can tell, the officer’s done none of these,” O’Meara said. Jail records show the man was arrested by Officer Brett Bibby, but O’Meara said a backup officer and a shift supervisor also were involved to varying degrees. Ashland police contacted the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office Tuesday morning to ensure any pending charges were dropped, according to a police release, and O’Meara met with the man and his father at their home Tuesday afternoon, where O’Meara apologized for the department’s mistake. “We’re taking it very seriously,” O’Meara said. Ashland police have begun an internal investigation to determine what policies were violated, and what consequences are appropriate for the three officers involved in the wrongful arrest — be it disciplinary actions or added training. O’Meara said he hoped to have the investigation completed within two weeks. “It’s such a disservice to this young man,” O’Meara said. “We’re getting it out there as quickly as we can, and hopefully we can move past it.”


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