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Sunday, February 01, 2009

Where the police wrong? Should this woman be compensated?

There is a local story in the news here about what happened to a woman back in 2004.

This lady was out shopping in a mall with her son. There was a robbery at a bank in the same mall. The police showed up looking for a female suspect of a certain description (a heavyset African-American female in her 30s wearing a dark blue shirt, dark sunglasses, a black headband or bandana, tennis shoes and carrying a dark bag). The police detained the female shopper (45 at the time, was smaller and wearing a white, nylon jogging suit with a light blue shirt underneath. She was carrying a purse and a white Sears bag, and was with a child) - cuffed her, searched her, refused to let her son use her phone to contact his father.

This all happened in view of one of the busiest roads in town. People gawked, there was news footage, and a couple driving by recognized the woman being detained as someone from their church.

Eventually, the police determined that the woman they had detained was not the suspect. They released her. No apology.

The woman later sued. She lost (well, she won a part of her suit and was awarded $1) and now owes court costs and attorneys' fees of over $45,000. The judge thinks the lawsuit was frivolous. The jury was an all white jury.

By the way, here is how the news describes the innocent female shopper: 
  • Anchorage businesswoman and mother of two
  • She and her family were immersed in a church conference in the days leading up to the incident. 
  • She was at the mall shopping for something to wear to a church banquet
And her husband was, at the time all this happened, on active military duty (the police found the female's military ID).

The real robber was found later that evening, dressed as she had been described, hanging out in a seedier area of our town.

So, what do you think?