A film and television producer preparing to attend an Emmy's pre-party on Friday says he was wrongly held for six hours by officers of the Beverly Hills police force who said he 'fit the description' of a black bank robber.
Harvard graduate Charles Belk, 51, posted a photograph to Facebook of himself handcuffed and sitting on a curb with two officers standing over him after he was pulled over as he left a restaurant to top up a parking meter.
The award-winning executive says he was swarmed on Wilshire Boulevard by officers and not told why he had been arrested and was denied a phone call before being released just before midnight when police admitted they had made a mistake.
A furious Belk was booked on $100,000 bail and says he was treated with contempt by the arresting officers who only let him go when they reviewed the video and realized that the bank robbery suspect bore no resemblance to him according to KTLA.
The photograph of Belk sitting indignantly on the curb, legs crossed while officers of the Beverly Hills Police Department stand guard over him has been shared almost 30,000 times on the social network.
Belk, who has worked with the NAACP to produce their Image Awards and on An Evening of Stars tributes to music legends Chaka Khan and Lionel Richie, took to Facebook to express his deep disappointment and concern over his arrest.
'I get that the Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t know that I was a well educated American citizen that had received a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, an MBA from Indiana University … and an executive leadership certificate from Harvard Business School,' wrote Belk on Facebook.
'Hey, I was ‘tall,’ ‘bald,’ a ‘male’ and ‘black,’ so I fit the description.'
Describing the distressing moment he was pulled over, Belk said 'It's one of those things that you heard about, but never think it would happen to you.'
Belk, who was the Deputy Director of Olympic Village Operations for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games was pulled over at around 5.20pm.
'Within minutes, I was surrounded by 6 police cars, handcuffed very tightly, fully searched for weapons, and placed back on the curb,' wrote the angry television producer.
'Within an hour, I was transported to the Beverly Hills Police Headquarters, photographed, finger printed and put under a $100,000 bail and accused of armed bank robbery and accessory to robbery of a Citibank.'
Worryingly, Belk said that his arrest could have turned out drastically different and alluded to the current climate of tension that exists between law enforcement and African Americans.
'The sad thing is, prior to my freedom being taken from me for an easily proven crime I did not commit, I was walking back to my car, by myself, because I needed to check my parking meter, so that I wouldn’t get a ticket and break the law,' wrote Belk.
'In fact, if it wasn’t for a text message that I was responding to, I would have actually been running up LaCienega Blvd when the first Beverly Hills Police Officer approached me. Running!'
After Belk's release, the Beverly Hills Police Department attempted to clarify their treatment of Belk, who should have attended a pre-Emmy's party instead of a freezing cold jail cell on Friday evening.
A statement issued on Monday claimed that officers were investigating an armed robbery at a nearby Citibank and arrested Belk beause 'he matched the physical characteristics of the second suspect and was in the area of the bank shortly after the robbery.'
A witness to the robbery allegedly identified Belk as the thieves accomplice, leading to his detention.
Thanking his lawyer for eventually securing his release, Belk thanked them saying 'I am certain that I would still be locked up in the custody of the Beverly Hills Police Department.
'Based on comments made by a Beverly Hills Police Officer during my booking, and an FBI Special Agent, it appeared that they had tried and convicted me.'
Belk said he understood officers doing their job. However, what galled him was the fact that no one had checked the video.
'Why, at 11:59pm (approximately 6 hours later), was the video footage reviewed only after my request to the Lead Detective for the Beverly Hills Police Department and an FBI Agent to do so, and, after being directly accused by another FBI Special Agent of '…going in and out of the bank several times complaining about the ATM Machine to cause a distraction…' thereby aiding in the armed robbery attempt of a bank that I never heard of, or ever been to; and within 10 minutes……10 MINUTES (sic), my lawyer was told that I was being release because it was clear that it was not me,' wrote Belk.
The Beverly Hills Police Department said that they have apologized to Belk.
'The Beverly Hills Police Department regrets the inconvenience to Mr. Belk, but was under obligation to thoroughly verify that he was not the suspect before releasing him,' the statement from the police read.
However, referring to the continuing troubles nationwide, Belk said that the 'time has come for a change in the way OUR (sic) law enforcement officers 'serve and protect' us.
'We all do not, FIT THE DESCRIPTION.'