Charles Brown, the black business owner whose complaint against the Chapel Hill Police Department helped reignite the campaign for a civilian police review board in Chapel Hill, has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Chapel Hill and the Chapel Hill police officers accused of falsely detaining him in 2009. The complaints against the Town and police officers claim violations of the N.C. Constitution, false imprisonment and assault and battery.
The NAACP rallied around Brown following the incident and cited it as evidence of racism within the Chapel Hill Police Department, which supported their demand for a civilian police review board. After more than a year, the Community Police Advisory Committee was established in March 2011. However, the members of the committee lack the authority to review police employment records, a power that must be granted by the General Assembly.
The lawsuit, filed June 2, emphasizes the physical discomfort and humiliation felt by Brown, as well as racist attitudes within the Chapel Hill Police Department. The court document alleges that the officers were acting on an “unwritten policy and accepted practice that they had had an imaginary general warrant in their pockets for any black person who appeared ‘suspicious’ or out of place to them.”
The court document also states, “No comparable white Chapel Hill business owner has been treated like this. If a white business owner were so treated the Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Merchants Association and all the citizenry—black and white—would have risen up in righteous outrage and everyone would say the merchant had every right to be angry. But a black business owner is caught in a racialized Catch 22. He must never show his rage—because it just adds to the stereotype of an ‘angry black man.’”
Brown’s attorney, Alan McSurely, could not be reached for comment.
At the time this was written Chapel Hill Town Attorney Ralph Karpinos had not yet received the suit and therefore declined to comment.