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Charlottesville police refute racial profiling allegations, release body camera footage

Updated: Dec. 10, 2020 at 7:42 PM EST
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Charlottesville Police Chief RaShall Brackney is asking a city church minister to apologize. The minister sent a letter that circulated on social media accusing CPD of racially profiling a church member in October sparking widespread criticism, but Brackney says it is not true.

In a press conference Thursday, Brackney called the letter race-baiting and provided redacted body camera footage of the encounter. She said police responded to a 911 call, and the man was not stopped or surrounded as claimed.

CPD said the only thing true in the letter was that officers asked the man to walk another to way to church, and that was because he was on private property.

“This is all reckless, harmful and a divisive approach to this incident and the way we are here in Charlottesville,” said Chief Brackney.

Officers responded after a 911 call said “we have a man who’s been loitering... and trying to break into houses, and [he] broke into our neighbor’s and he’s on the property right now.”

The man in the encounter is not the person who broke into any home. He is a Unitarian Universalist Charlottesville church member on his way to help clean the playground.

The church’s interim minister and board sent a letter to police and accused officers of racial profiling. The initial letter, addressed to Chief Brackney in October, can be read here.

Brackney said that CPD’s Internal Affairs Unit “launched an immediate investigation into the allegations,” which found no wrongdoing.

She also said that the accusations sparked activists to call for the officers to be fired or removed.

“The complaint highlights the power of community members here seeking to leverage their privilege and self-serving agendas and jumping on the bandwagon approach many in this community has adopted without regard for those involved,” she said at the press conference.

The church’s letter didn’t call for firings, but it did ask for a stop to “this racial profiling and harassment.”

“Action and accountability are needed,” Brackney said. “The call to apologize or to be terminated for their actions should start with Rev. Dr. Linda Olson Peebles and their board.”

Rev. Olson Peebles responded in an interview with NBC29 following the press conference: “I don’t know that we need to apologize because we never attacked anyone. Our letter was not an attack letter, it was a letter of concern.

She also said the church’s community was “disappointed” by Chief Brackney’s press conference.

“The police chief made unfair accusations about our congregation and the people trying to simply bring a matter of concern to the police department,” she said. “How sad that a public official would malign people of faith.”

The full statement from the church following Chief Brackney’s press conference can be read here.

During the press conference, Brackney read an excerpt of a letter from the man involved, himself.

“Over the past few months individuals from ‘the UUC church, C-Ville, Cavalier Daily, and all the other people have it wrong and do not represent me,’” Brackney read, referring to news coverage and opinion stories.

But the church said the man also reviewed their initial letter. Rev. Peebles said “we would not have sent it unless we had it accurate.”

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