Imagine every time you tried to go to work, you got arrested. That's what has reportedly been happening to Earl Sampson, who works at a Miami Gardens, Florida, Quickstop. Sampson has been stopped and questioned 258 times by police in four years, searched 100 times, jailed 56 times, and arrested for trespassing 62 times. Wow, sounds like a hardened criminal. The problem? Sampson was not trespassing, he was merely trying to go to work. But Sampson had the misfortune of working at a store with an owner who naively signed up for a police program that gave the police broad permission to stop, search, and arrest anyone on his property -- even if they worked there!
The owner, Alex Saleh, realized his mistake early on but hasn't been able to stop what he views as pure harassment of his workers and customers. I don't think it would surprise anyone to know that Earl Sampson, who Saleh says is a dedicated employee, is poor and black?
Saleh finally installed cameras in his stores and collected dozens of videos of what he says is police abuse of power.
In one video his employee Earl goes outside to take out the garbage. When he tries to return to the store, he is arrested! Is it clear he has done nothing but his job, but the cop comes in and arrests him. It makes me sick to watch it.
Saleh has video after video of this type of thing! Here we have a guy just trying to work. He's not out committing crimes -- aren't those the people the cops should be concerned with?
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Sampson now has a rap sheet as lengthy as any hardened criminal, yet he has never done anything other than be found guilty of marijuana possession. Often he's arrested and prosecutors decline to even pursue charges. Yet all of this remains on his record. Working at Quickstop has probably ruined any chances of ever getting hired anywhere else -- how is he supposed to get a job somewhere else with this kind of record? Insane!
Once Saleh began to fight back, he says he was also threatened and intimidated.
The area has a high crime rate and police are trying to stem that with the "broken window" approach, which relies on going after people who commit petty crimes like trespassing and drinking from an open container. New York City used this type of crack down on petty crime to great effect, and it's a program that has been proven to work.
This should not mean, however, that cops get to arrest anyone at any time -- and charge someone with trespassing who works on the property! Being aggressive in your approach to crime doesn't mean that you get to abuse power and put aside all common sense.
If all of this proves true (and the video certainly makes it look bad for cops), someone needs to stop this.
Unfortunately, this type of thing happens everywhere, even in New York City, where black people have been arrested at high-end retail stores for no other crime than buying stuff that cops thought they couldn't afford.
What do you think about what is happening?
Image via cdogstar/ Flickr