The Detroit Police Department has launched an internal investigation after a black veteran officer said he was racially profiled by a white officer for allegedly carrying too much money.
Christopher Williams, who has been with the department for almost 15 years, was among 100 or so plainclothes officers at the city's police training center on June 6 to log hours for annual requirements.
Todd Perkins, Williams' attorney, told NBC News on Sunday that the officer was in possession of more than $5,000 that his girlfriend, who is also an officer, had asked him to hold. Williams' girlfriend also attended the June 6 training and had withdrawn the money during her lunch break to purchase money orders to pay her bills, according to Perkins.
At the end of the daylong training, Williams said he encountered a white officer in the bathroom who saw him shoving money into his pocket. As Williams exited the training center with his girlfriend and walked to the parking lot, he said he was approached by the white officer, who allegedly grabbed him, threw him up against a fence and handcuffed him.
Williams said the white officer, who has been with the department for three years, told him, "You're not supposed to have that kind of money," according to his attorney.
After Williams' girlfriend showed the white officer her bank withdrawal receipt, he let Williams go, Perkins said.
Assistant Police Chief James White said Friday that the incident is under investigation and that he was "not asserting blame prematurely."
"I’d like to see what happened," White said in a video posted to the department's Facebook page. "To say that it’s a racial component, I’ve got someone in the bathroom with a very large sum of money on him and an inquiry is being made as to where did you get the money. That’s not unreasonable to me."
White said the races of the officers does not cause him "great concern" unless it is determined that the actions of the white officer, whose identity has not been disclosed, were racially motivated. He said that on June 6, there was a ribbon-cutting for a new fitness center at the training facility and there were people in the building who were not officers.
"One of the things that I’d be trying to find out is at what point did the officer identify himself as a police officer, which is required by our policy — that once you’re engaged in confrontation or conversation relative to an investigation, you should identify yourself as a member of our agency," White said.
Perkins said the white officer did not identify himself as an officer before handcuffing his client.
White also said in the video, "The second thing that we would look at is it’s a large sum of money, where did it come from, why did he have it. That’s a reasonable question for someone who’s in a restroom counting money in a building that’s open at that time."
Perkins said White's response was "shameful" and that it requires his client to defend having money.
"My client was injured by this — mentally," Perkins said. "He’s distraught. There has to be some remuneration that comes to my client. He doesn’t want this to happen to anyone."
Both White and Perkins said it was "ironic" that this incident occurred at the center where diversity training is among the requirements for officers.