Earl Sampson has been arrested 62 times over the last four years for trespassing at a Miami-area convenience store, but how is that possible when the 28-year-old works there?
It's possible because Sampson, who is African-American, is a victim of racial profiling, his employer is arguing in a federal lawsuit against the local police department and top city officials.
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Alex Saleh, 36, owns the Quickstop store in Miami Gardens, Fla., where Sampson, who works as a clerk, has been picked up dozens of times for supposedly trespassing. One surveillance video obtained by the Miami Herald even shows Sampson taking out the garbage
and getting arrested when he walks back into the store.
In all, Sampson has been stopped by police 258 times in four years, but despite all those encounters, he's never been convicted of anything more serious than marijuana possession.
It was incidents like those that led Saleh to install 15 security cameras in and around his store to capture the way police officers regularly treated his staff and even some customers.
According to the Herald's analysis, the surveillance videos show police "stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them, and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh's business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest, and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests."
"There is just no justifying this kind of behavior," Chuck Drago, a former police officer and consultant on police policy and the use of force, told the Herald. "Nobody can justify overstepping the constitution to fight crime."
In a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city and its leaders, Saleh argues that the police department is guilty of racial profiling, illegal stops and searches, and other misconduct. He also alleges that the city's top officials directed the cops to conduct business that way in order to cover up other offenses.
The Miami Gardens police department has not commented on the pending litigation, but Chief Matthew Boyd did release the following statement:
"Rest assured that our department is fully committed to complying with the laws that govern us. ... [We are committed to] exceeding the expectations of those that rely on us, and providing the best possible service to the residents of this great City."
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