The Clayton Police Department has issued an apology after its police officers falsely accused 10 Washington University students of not paying for their meal at an IHOP restaurant the night of July 7, reports CBS St. Louis affiliate KMOV-TV. The black incoming freshmen had just left the eatery when they were stopped by police, school officials confirmed.
Clayton police officers then made the students walk back to the restaurant, despite being shown some receipts proving the students had paid for the meals.
After officers escorted the students back to the IHOP, the manager said the students weren’t the suspects.
The manager had contacted police to report that a $60 tab wasn’t paid by a group of black customers. That’s the procedure called for by IHOP policy.
A short time later, police spotted the group of teens. Police say they were stopped because they were the only ones nearby with IHOP bags in hand and were black.
The 10, who were on campus as part of a summer program, told KMOV-TV they felt that they’d been racially profiled.
Were they? “”I don’t know how you can take that into account,” Clayton Police Chief Kevin Murphy told KMOV-TV.
The school issued a statement expressing disappointment over the false accusations.
“The fact that these students, all of whom are African American, were scared and humiliated is unacceptable to us,” Washington University said in the statement. “We have shared the sentiment with the City of Clayton and have had an opportunity to meet with city leaders to reiterate our concerns.“
The Clayton P.D. said the IHOP involved had 45 “dine and dash” calls since January and that “collateral damage” such as the incident involving the students was an “additional cost of this kind of criminal activity.”
The department also said it’s open to ways it can perform better in similar situations.
“Our department has and will continue to study what could have been done better in this and in all incidents where we have complaints,” the Clayton PD said in its statement. “Even without any apparent policy or legal violations, we look for ways to improve and make our officers even more effective in positive interactions.”
An IHOP spokesman told News 4 “discrimination of any kind is not tolerated,” when asked for comment.
Washington University’s Association of Black Students released a statement demanding an apology:
The foundation of our current Association of Black Students (ABS) was birthed from the Association of Black Collegians’ efforts in the late 1960s to shed light on the harassment of Black students at Washington University. Our main goal is not only to support our students as they work towards achieving a degree from Washington University, but also to provide a space where they can be Black and free of harassment, dehumanizing threats, and racial subjugation. The comments of Police Chief Murphy minimize the impact of his officers’ conduct, thus invalidating the experience of those affected. Murphy characterizes this misconduct as a mere inconvenience — this indicates that there is likely a significant failure on his part to understand the responsibility of law enforcement to ensure that civilians are treated with dignity and respect. The officers involved in this incident, a false accusation against ten Black Washington University students claiming that they left a restaurant without paying, engaged in the most dangerous form of racial profiling by relying solely on the race of the incoming students when stopping them. Such stops are illegal under the Fourth Amendment, which requires officers to have a reasonable, articulable suspicion that prompts them to engage and stop everyday citizens in a free society. The Association of Black Students (ABS) at Washington University in St. Louis demands an apology from the Clayton Police Department to our students as well as the findings of the internal report to which the Chief of Police, Kevin R. Murphy, commits himself. We also demand that the Clayton Police implement training in racial profiling and illegal stops which violate the Fourth Amendment rights of our citizens and perpetuates law enforcements’ unacceptable violation of Black people. This unnecessary and dehumanizing event is important not only to ABS and the Washington University community, but also to the larger discussion on police-community relations, for the racism that fuels our law enforcement and criminal justice systems are not only life-threatening but ultimately unconstitutional. ABS is thrilled about the arrival of this year’s incoming class and will continue to support them as they transition into what should be an exciting and rewarding experience not limited to our university, but also in Clayton and the greater city of St. Louis as well. We ask that you give our students privacy at this time.