When you ‘fit the description…’

Television producer Charles Belk, handcuffed, sitting on a Beverly Hills curb on Fri., August 22, 2014 — because he “fit the description.”

I worry about my son. He’s 20 years old and a senior at the University of Southern California. My wife and I tell him regularly that he needs to be as above board and as disarming as possible in his demeanor — which is difficult at best. He gets his smart mouth from the best of Rachel AND me. 

I have to get him to bite his tongue and to not smart off at authority figures — especially the local constabulary. Why? Because he “fits the description.”

How does that work? Ask 51-year-old Charles Belk. Belk is a USC engineering grad, an IU MBA graduate and a noted television producer with credits that include the 1996 Summer Olympics here in Atlanta, other television and film productions and numerous film festivals.

The Beverly Hills Police Department didn’t see that last Friday when they grabbed Belk while he walked to his car from a Wilshire Boulevard restaurant. 

He was surrounded, handcuffed, searched, then taken to a police station where he was booked and accused of taking part in an armed bank robbery. His car was impounded and he was held on $100,000 bail. He says he was denied a phone call and was not even told initially WHY he was being held. 

More than six hours later — and only after Belk was finally able to ask the lead detective and an FBI agent — investigators looked at the video footage from the bank and realized they were looking for a different “tall, bald, black man.” They realized that they had the wrong “tall, bald, black man.”

They had picked up Belk because he “fit the description.”

Until folks figure out that black men don’t all look alike, until more care is given while investigating by officers, and as long as my son is out in the world, I remain afraid. Because my son, like me, like Charles Belk, like black men of all ages and sizes, “fit the description.”

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