A set of videos posted to YouTube by a black Bridgeport man shows police stopping him as he rode his bike to work at Tokeneke Country Club, and an online petition says police should apologize to him and undergo racial sensitivity training.
The traffic stop, made by a female Darien police officer, took place on one of the private Tokeneke roads leading to the country club. The Bridgeport man told the police officer that he’s a cook who’s been working at the club for two years. According to the petition, he rides his bicycle to a train station, then rides it from another station to his job.
The video recording shows the police officer is civil, even courteous to the bike rider, and explains that police are concerned about several burglaries in the area (there have been four in Tokeneke in recent weeks — see Darienite.com’s articles here and here).
The bike rider appears upset (he tells the officer he’s “a little” upset) that he’s being stopped while plenty of cars whiz by who have not been stopped. He indicates in a note posted on YouTube with the video that he finds it unbelievable that police might think he’d burglarize a home and use a bike to get to and from them.
The bike rider, who identifies himself as Matthew McGee, said in a note posted Sunday, July 17 with the YouTube videos:
Tokeneke Country Club in Darien CT Im riding my bike to work when i was pulled over by police. They ran my name and told me “there was a string of robberies in the area” How am I gonna rob houses on a 10 speed bike this video has been blocked on facebook and please share with everyone racial profiling is real in 2016 and they said racism didnt exist ….made in America
The online petition at the Care2 Petitions website, notes that there are more serious problems with police officers in confrontations with black people, but that it appears that McGee shouldn’t have been stopped and the encounter left him feel “violated, fearful, confused and sad.”
Here’s the full text of the petition:
On July 18th, 2016 Matthew McGee was doing his regular commute routine. He rides his bike to the train station in Bridgeport, CT. and then rides his bike from the station to his job at a suburban country club on a private road in Darien CT. Please watch the video. WARNING!! You WILL see a man who is upset as any of us would be if we were riding a bike period and the police asked us if we saw anything because their were burglaries in the area. In anticipation of the stop he uses profanity in the video talking to himself but NEVER at the police officer.
There are clearly vehicles driving by that could be asked the same thing. Did he fit the description of the burglar or were they just asking what he saw doing his bike ride to work? You decide!! They even called his job to confirm if he really worked there! At a time when police need to be building bridges of trust it is things like this that continue to perpetuate more mistrust amongst the Black community and law enforcement nationwide. Someone does not have to be shot or killed to highlight a long standing issue in our communities. This man felt violated, fearful, confused, and sad all at once.
We all want the bad guys caught no matter what race but we want our constitutional rights observed as well. Americans of all races are seeing some things on video that would have been just hearsay in the past. I think we owe a lot to Google and Apple for the ubiquitous cellphone camera. It is helping us be a better country by letting us see the truth with our own eyes.
This petition wants 2 things 1. An apology to Mr. McGee and 2. Racial sensitivity training for its officers. Lets be clear this is an attempt to communicate the need for solutions, not just frustration or lip service. Police officers are human with all the frailties and idiosyncrasy’s that we all have and are subject to with a tough job and mistakes can be made. I hope the First Selectman and Police Chief will not just dismiss this as an anomaly or baseless concern. Signing this petition can help achieve that. We can make America better if we all understand that Black males are people too. I know some Darien residents and I know they don’t condone this. I am quite sure it is not what they want their town to be known for. Lets help make things better for all of us, Sign the Petition right now.
What Was Said in the Videos
In what appears to be the first video, which lasts 50 seconds, McGee is riding his bicycle with a patrol car following him. Police following — me on a bike. […] [expletive] we gotta go through.” The police siren blares briefly and that video ends.
In what seems to be the second video, which lasts 27 seconds, he’s shown being pulled over.
In the third video, 3 minutes, 17 seconds long, he talks with the officer who pulled him over.
The female officer who stopped him called him “sir” and appears to have been civil with him, even courteous.
She said there had been burglaries in the area. (There have been several in recent weeks.)
Here’s some of the dialogue on the third video:
Officer: ” […] They hit a residence, so I just wanted to —”
McGee: “You had a burglary? I’m on a bike though, and I’m going to a job I’ve been [at] for two years. [Then, to the camera] This is what I deal with. This is what I deal with. This is what we deal with. […]
Officer: “I appreciate your cooperation.
Officer: “So did you see anything? Have you seen anything in the area?”
McGee: “No, I ain’t seen nothing in the area. I’m just going to work, man.”
Officer: “Are you upset with something?”
McGee: “Yes, I’m really — I’m kind of — I’m kind of upset.”
Officer: “[Because] I’m talking to you for a few minutes, you’re upset with me?”
McGee: “I am a little bit, just a little bit.”
She asks him where he works and what he does there, then the officer can be heard repeating the information into a radio.
Officer: “Just wait for one second, OK? I appreciate it.”
McGee then notes that a second patrol car has arrived and parks behind the officer’s patrol car. He says to the camera: “Back up, back up. Down the street from my job. Down the street from my job. … and this is what I go through, this is waht I go through. […] It’s [expletive] crazy. […] I’ve been coming here for two years. All these cops. I’m in a rich neighborhood. […] I’m safer in Bridgeport. I’m safer in the hood. […] How am I going to rob a house and take a bike there? This is the problem of being a black [expletive] man.”
Here are the three videos. Warning: They contain profanity, not directed at the officer, but with McGee talking to himself and the camera phone in an undertone:
Video 1 (51 seconds)
Video 2 (27 seconds)
Video 3 (3 minutes, 17 seconds)
Comments on the Petition Web Page
Here are some of the comments posted by people who “signed” (posted their names on) the petition:
Katherine K. — “I’ve known bike riders who have riden same places – the Tokeneke cops have not stopped. Why? Probably for their perceived race, bike & bike outfit. Totally bias stop! Everyone in Stamford & Norwalk knows the profiling that goes on in Darien & Tokeneke… Come on Darien – it’s 2016!”
Raymond F. — “It’s really embarrassing if your going to work and you have multiple cops approach you in predominately white community,and everyone driving by viewing you as a criminal.”
Stamford R. — “I live near the Darien border and I take 106 to get to the highway. I’ve been pulled over many times and I’m Latin. I don’t have a bmw or Benz so I must stick out. Never going to change just be careful sadly .”
name not displayed — “I am a hard working latina that used to work in Darien and would get stop by these people all the time .The reason for getting stopped “my car looked suspicious” they would always call backup .Darien police are racist and i am sick and tired of getting profiled by them because the color of my skin.”