An interaction between Washington, D.C. police, a black handyman and a white lawyer could shine a light on the way race affects people's interactions with authorities.
The video above shows Dennis Stucky seated on the curb in Foxhall, a wealthy neighborhood in D.C last week. A black female officer has stopped Stucky in connection with a reported burglary in an adjacent neighborhood three-quarters-of-a-mile away, according to the Washington Post.
Although the alarm was sounding in an adjacent subdivision — three-quarters of a mile away by car — one of the officers ordered the 64-year-old man to sit on the curb while she put on disposable gloves and prepared to search him.
Jody Westby, a resident and lawyer, rushed to Stucky’s defense, angrily telling the officers that Stucky had been a neighborhood fix-it man for 30 years and that they were not at the right house. The officers reluctantly freed Stucky, who lives in Southeast and said he feels he was stopped “because I’m black.”
"Just because he's black, doesn't mean he's here to rob a house," Westby says in the video, which was filmed by Westby's housekeeper.
Stucky was released by the police who said they stopped him because he was carrying bags and the burglary had just been called in.
District police spokesperson Gwendolyn Crump told the Post “there’s no misconduct by the officer in that video.”
What is most interesting about the encounter, according to the Post's Clinton Yates, is how confidently Westby behaves toward the officers and how much leeway they give her during the incident.
"The level of comfort with which she communicates with the officers due to her knowledge of the law and lack of fear of retribution offers a lesson about how the intersection of race, class and privilege can impact the interactions between police officers and some residents," Yates writes.
"Westby proceeds to chastise the officer for harassing Stucky, and tells them they need to leave. She’s pointing her fingers and gesturing toward the car window. That’s the type of behavior that coming from many other people would be considered dangerous, threatening or violent in some way."
The story comes as police interactions with the public are under a bright spotlight.
On Wednesday, 18-year-old Vonderrit Myers Jr. was shot dead by a white off-duty police officer in St. Louis. Police said the officer, who has not been identified, was returning fire, but Myers' family says the black teen was unarmed.
The killing has set off a new wave of tense protests.
The shooting took place just days before more rallies were scheduled to protest the August killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.