Pastor Michael Jennings to file discrimination suit against the Childersburg Police Department after Alabama black pastor was arrested watering his neighbor’s plants, arguing he was arrested as a result of racial profiling.
What if he was a white pastor- would he still be suspicious?
An Alabama black pastor arrested while watering his neighbor’s flowers, has given notice of his intention to file a discrimination suit against a local police department.
Alabama pastor Michael Jennings was arrested and charged with obstructing government operations, while watering his neighbor’s plants while they were out of town earlier this year.
Despite the Childersburg Police Department later dropping charges, the pastor who heads Vision of Abundant Life Ministries in Sylacauga, has indicated his intent to file a discrimination suit after alleging he was detained as a result of racial profiling.
Police arrived on the scene after being alerted to a ‘suspicious individual’ outside the Childersburg home. The exchange was captured on the unidentified officer’s body camera. While the arrest occurred in May, the footage is newly released (see below).
‘You’re Not Supposed to be Here’
In the 20-minute video, police can be seen approaching Jennings while he watered plants with a garden hose. They asked him if he lived in the home, and Jennings indicated that he lived across the street but explained that his neighbors asked him to look after their home while they were away.
When police asked for Jennings’ identification, he refused and reiterated that he was supposed to be at the home.
After Jennings walked around to the other side of the house, saying more plants needed to be watered, police handcuffed Jennings. Jennings requested to call his wife, which police did not allow him to do. After Jennings continued to argue with police, they placed him in the back of a patrol vehicle.
Later, police asked another neighbor to corroborate Jennings’ story. She identified Jennings’ house, and confirmed that he was friends with the people who lived in the home where Jennings was watering plants.
While she couldn’t confirm that Jennings had express permission to be on the property, she said, ‘They went out of town today, so [Jennings] may be watering their flowers. That’d be completely normal.’
Nevertheless, the officer continued to refer to Jennings as ‘a suspicious person.’
The neighbor, who was a white woman, disclosed to police that it was her who called the police after seeing Jennings in the yard, only later realizing who he was. She apologetically remarked, ‘This is probably my fault.’
‘clearly showed police denying Jennings his rights.’
After Jennings was allowed back out of the patrol vehicle to have his handcuffs adjusted, Jennings told police, ‘Y’all racially profiled me.’ After the officer denied having done so, Jennings retorted, ‘Yes, you did.’
While Jennings waited in the patrol vehicle, the three officers, all of whom appear to be white, discussed Jennings’ refusal to offer his identification and expressed frustration that he accused them of racial profiling. They further discussed what to charge him with.
Despite the fact that the misunderstanding was cleared up, Jennings was detained and charged with obstruction of government operations.
When Jennings’ family realized he had been detained, they came out and began speaking to the officers. Jennings’ wife brought out Jennings’ wallet, but Jennings urged her not to hand over his identification to police. One officer then said that Jennings would be booked as a ‘John Doe.’
After acknowledging that the neighbor had called them in error, one police officer told Jennings’ wife, ‘We’ve already arrested him. We can’t un-arrest him.’
According to civil rights attorney Harry Daniels, one of three attorneys representing Jennings, the lawyer told WBRC that the video ‘clearly showed police denying Jennings his rights.’
Adding, ‘the video represents an abuse of police powers. It represents racial profiling and it represents law-enforcement officers intimidating a person who actually understands and knows their rights.’
‘These cases put law enforcement on notice and the country on notice that these types of interactions—thank God that Pastor Jennings had a cool head. He didn’t get aggressive or defensive in a sense, and he complied when the officers grabbed him,’ Daniels told WBRC. ‘It could’ve went a different way. Pastor Jennings could very well not be here today.’
Daniels expressed that it would take time for Jennings to emotionally recover from the incident