“What have you done when you see these kids walk around with hoodies on with the heat index of 100 degrees?” asked Annapolis Police Chief Ed Jackson during an August community update.
He then said, “We need you to call.”
In other words, the chief said call police when you see a kid in a hoodie on a hot day – that kid can be doing nothing wrong and yet people should, according to Jackson, call police because of a clothing item.
It’s a ridiculous, ill-informed, bias-based statement that puts young people in danger – including my own.
My daughter is 21-years-old and because she gets cold going in and out of air conditioned spaces, she wears hoodies in the summer for temperature regulation.
Jackson is not the chief of the fashion police. And in the United States, he doesn’t get to dictate what anyone, other than Annapolis Police officers, can or cannot wear.
“I was stunned by his comment… and panicked,” stated Dawn Davis of Annapolis. “I have three children (one adult and two teenagers) who wear hoodies year round, and who want to enjoy Annapolis with their friends. I feel like I’m waiting for someone to take the chief at his word and harm my children because they are walking to a friend’s house or through the mall. As a Black person, I already live in a state of high alert. I feel paralyzed and abandoned as no one I wrote (to include Governor Moore and WTOP) even bothered to respond to my concern.”
Jackson’s statement could be construed as an example of bias-based policing – in this case, bias against young people and their clothing choices.
Other police departments have addressed the issue of bias-based policing.
According to the Greensboro Police Department’s website, “Bias-based policing is the use of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, background, age, socio-economic status, or culture as the sole basis for police activity. It is commonly known as racial profiling. This type of policing is not a legitimate law enforcement technique.“
According to the Ocala Police Department’s website, “it is against departmental policy for Ocala police officers to practice bias-based policing. The department is committed to the fair and equal treatment of every member of the public.”
In examining the differences between biased-based policing and criminal profiling, the Greensboro Police Department’s website states, “The absence of facts, suspicious activity, or specific criminal information is what separates bias-based policing from legitimate criminal profiling.”
Jackson’s bias-based statement against young people wearing hoodies isn’t based on facts – it also goes against the idea of “fair and equal treatment of every member of the public.”
This reporter reached out to the Annapolis Police Department for comment from Jackson.
“In reviewing the quote with the chief, he did say hoodies and ski masks and went further to mention fur coats,” stated Bernie Bennett, public information officer (PIO) for the department. “He did not single out all teens in hoodies. He was referencing people in the area who were under suspicion for shooting Mr. Clark and the 17-year-old.”
Despite the explanation, the chief actually did single out kids in hoodies. While he did mention fur coats, there was no reference to a real shooting at this point in the community update and there was no mention of ski masks in the entirety of the discussion posted by the Annapolis Police Department on its Facebook page.
Bennett later acknowledged he couldn’t find any mention of ski masks by the chief in the briefing.
It was near the end of the update when Jackson asked the community to call police for kids wearing hoodies.
“Where I dropped the ball and failed us all was I did not make available to our content editor, photos of the suspects in this matter,” stated Bennett. “Our detectives had three stills of three suspects in the area, all wearing hoodies and hiding their faces from cameras. It seems that they were aware of surveillance cameras in the area. Eye witness (sp) accounts match the descriptions of the three individuals seen in camera footage of the area at the time of the shooting on July 28. If I had provided the stills to be aired as the chief spoke, it might have driven eyes to the specific individuals in question and helped clarify his point. Generally, I do not make public any visuals involved in the investigative process, but in this case I wish that I had made an exception.”
Again, there was no mention of a specific crime during this part of the discussion. It also seems odd that Bennett was encouraged or allowed to take responsibility for something the chief said – this reporter requested comment from the chief, not from the department’s PIO.
Jackson was one of four members of the department who spoke during the update – he was the first and the last to speak. He was the only one who seemed frustrated and angry with the community – that frustration was focused on those who don’t call police with information that can potentially help solve crimes and those who’ve been publicly critical of the Annapolis Police Department.
Jessica Pachler, an Annapolis resident, shared her disdain on social media about the chief requesting the community to call police about kids in hoodies.
“In today’s WTH moment, the Annapolis Chief of Police encouraged the citizens of Annapolis to call the police when they see people wearing hoodies in the summer,” wrote Pachler. “Yes, you read that correctly. He just put a target on people wearing hoodies this summer (which is, for the record, all teenagers because #teenagers) … Do not, I repeat, do not, call the police on a kid or any person because they’re wearing a hoodie, in the summer or otherwise. That is how people die.”
Pachler is right – this is indeed how people die.
“But the chief was not engaging in bias-based policing or promoting it,” wrote Bennett. “As an inspector general and a professor, he has lectured on the topic. He was addressing the continued criticism from many sides about the effectiveness of the crime plan and what some say is a bias based approach to violent crime in Annapolis. He was and is asking for more help from the community in providing information about suspicious individuals behaving in contrast to normal routines, very much like the Department of Homeland Security asked people to do in a series of PSA’s some years ago.”
“Suspicious individuals behaving in contrast to normal routines …” should never be confused with kids wearing hoodies regardless who said it, their past or present titles or however many times they’ve lectured others. But if it was said my someone that lectures others about bias-based policing, that’s even more concerning.
Pachler has also publicly criticized the department for treating some murder cases differently than others – as if some are higher profile or more important than others.
The chief addressed this during the briefing and stated that because a murder victim wasn’t from Annapolis, “Her case is different than someone that lives in Annapolis.”
If the Annapolis Police Department wants the community’s help with cases, building trust, not eroding it, would be helpful.
It wasn’t just the message about kids in hoodies and the one about treating some murder cases different than others that the chief got wrong.
“If you see something, say something” is a slogan law enforcement began using in the wake of 9/11.
The chief’s use of this statement in relation to kids in hoodies waters down the importance of speaking up when something is really wrong. If he’s asking people to speak up when things are wrong, asking them to do it because of hoodies is mixed messaging.
Bennett emailed a list of links which presumedly were intended to illuminate the point about public contacting police when they something amiss – the first of those links is this one, which states, “‘If You See Something, Say Something®‘ is a national campaign that raises public awareness of the signs of terrorism and terrorism-related crime, and how to report suspicious activity to state and local law enforcement.”
Wearing hoodies during the summer isn’t a crime, it isn’t cause for concern and it isn’t a precursor for terrorism or any other danger.
If the chief of the Annapolis Police Department is unable to fight crime without what could be construed as bias-based policing and without getting angry with people that call on the department to be better, Annapolis is in trouble – putting people in danger is the quintessential opposite of good policing.
Donna L. Cole is an award-winning investigative and multimedia reporter. She also wears hoodies.