The Clayton, Mo. Police Department has issued an apology after its police officers falsely accused a group of Washington University students of not paying for their meal at an IHOP restaurant the night of July 7.
10 black incoming freshman, were approached by Clayton police this month while walking to a MetroLink stop from a late-night dinner, and told they were suspected of leaving IHOP without paying.
A group of black college students were falsely accused of dining-and-dashing at a Missouri IHOP.
— The Root (@TheRoot) July 17, 2018
The manager had contacted police to report that a $60 tab wasn’t paid by a group of black customers. That’s the procedure called for by IHOP policy.
Even though some of the students had receipts showing they had paid for their meals, Clayton police officers made all of students walk three blocks back to the restaurant, with six squad cards following them.
At the restaurant, the manager told officers the students were not those who had left without paying.
10 black college students in St. Louis went to eat at IHOP:
▪ Police accused them of leaving without paying.
▪ They showed the officers their receipts.
▪ 6 squad cars escorted them back to the IHOP anyway.
(The restaurant manager confirmed they paid for their meals.)
— AJ+ (@ajplus) July 17, 2018
The Washington University’s Association of Black Students released a statement demanding an apology:
The foundation of our current Association of Black Students (ABS) was birthed from the Association of Black Collegians’ efforts in the late 1960s to shed light on the harassment of Black students at Washington University. Our main goal is not only to support our students as they work towards achieving a degree from Washington University, but also to provide a space where they can be Black and free of harassment, dehumanizing threats, and racial subjugation. The comments of Police Chief Murphy minimize the impact of his officers’ conduct, thus invalidating the experience of those affected. Murphy characterizes this misconduct as a mere inconvenience—this indicates that there is likely a significant failure on his part to understand the responsibility of law enforcement to ensure that civilians are treated with dignity and respect. The officers involved in this incident, a false accusation against ten Black Washington University students claiming that they left a restaurant without paying, engaged in the most dangerous form of racial profiling by relying solely on the race of the incoming students when stopping them. Such stops are illegal under the Fourth Amendment, which requires officers to have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that prompts them to engage and stop everyday citizens in a free society. The Association of Black Students (ABS) at Washington University in St. Louis demands an apology from the Clayton Police Department to our students as well as the findings of the internal report to which the Chief of Police, Kevin R. Murphy, commits himself. We also demand that the Clayton Police implement training in racial profiling and illegal stops which violate the Fourth Amendment rights of our citizens and perpetuates law enforcements’ unacceptable violation of Black people. This unnecessary and dehumanizing event is important not only to ABS and the Washington University community, but also to the larger discussion on police-community relations, for the racism that fuels our law enforcement and criminal justice systems are not only life-threatening but ultimately unconstitutional. ABS is thrilled about the arrival of this year’s incoming class and will continue to support them as they transition into what should be an exciting and rewarding experience not limited to our university, but also in Clayton and the greater city of St. Louis as well. We ask that you give our students privacy at this time.
“Needless to say, the students were shaken and upset,” Rob Wild, associate vice chancellor for student transition and engagement wrote in an email to Washington U. administrators. “This is obviously extremely disappointing. Not how any of us would like to welcome our new students.”
Wild also said in his email that the students “did not really appear to fit the description of the suspects other than being back.
The Clayton P.D. also released a statement:
We are so sorry this was the start for these newest Washington University in St. Louis Bears. For more than one hundred years we have welcomed university students from around the world to be a part of our community. While it is our duty to respond when businesses call for help, we aim to do this in a way that is as respectful and safe for all concerned as we can be. Chief Murphy has reached out to the university within hours of hearing about this to try to meet with these students to both hear what they have to say, but also to assure them (and their families who may be distant) that Clayton and Washington University have a long and proud tradition of safety and support for all students.
This particular restaurant has had 45 “dine and dash” calls since January. It is sad and unfortunate that so many people treat this business this way. The additional cost of this kind of criminal activity is that it leaves the community open to collateral damage such as this incident. Our department has and will continue to study what could have been done better in this and in all incidents where we have complaints. Even without any apparent policy or legal violations, we look for ways to improve and make our officers even more effective in positive interactions.
Outside of learning how to be better, we are most concerned at this point with restoring the confidence of these newest Clayton residents that they are safe and welcome in Clayton. We look forward to meeting with them soon.
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