A chapter of the South Carolina NAACP has launched their own investigation into an May 16 traffic stop involving the chapter's president.
What is the background?
A Timmonsville, South Carolina police officer reportedly pulled over Rev. Jerrod Moultrie during a routine traffic stop for failure to use a turn signal as well as a problem with his license plate.
Moultrie, in a since-deleted or made-private Facebook post, detailed his perception of his experience with a Timmonsville, South Carolina, police officer during a traffic stop in April.
According to WPDE-TV, Moultrie wrote, “Tonight, I was racially profiled by Timmonsville Officer CAUSE I WAS DRIVING A MERCEDES BENZ AND GOING HOME IN A NICE NEIGHBORHOOD.”
Moultrie went on to detail the alleged conversation between him and the white officer in the now-deleted Facebook post.
Screenshots of Moultrie’s account of the interaction remained on the internet, however:
Moultrie said that the white cop was belligerent and abusive.
He noted that when he told the officer that he lived in the neighborhood — and that the Mercedes Benz he was driving belonged to Moultrie — the officer supposedly quipped, “And I guess I am Bill Gates.”
“I am doing you a favor tonight not taking you to jail or writing you a ticket,” the officer reportedly told Moultrie.
Moultrie added that his wife and a child were in the car’s backseat during the stop.
“Guess I can’t be a pastor and can’t drive a Mercedes Benz and live in a nice neighborhood,” Moultrie wrote. “Someone needs to answer for this behavior and this officer will.”
Bodycam footage of the traffic stop, however, threw Moultrie's account completely askew.
What was in the footage?
Timothy Waters, a local community activist, was disturbed by Moultrie’s claims. So Waters was eager to unearth the bodycam footage from the traffic stop in order to support Moultrie.
When Waters obtained the bodycam footage, he was shocked — but not because of the officer's alleged treatment of Moultrie.
“Once I got a copy of that bodycam, it’s as if he made the whole story up,” Waters told WPDE. “And I felt like he set us back 100 years, because think about all of the racial profiling cases (that) are true.”
WPDE reported that Timmonsville Police Chief Billy Brown said that Moultrie called him the next morning to complain about his officer’s conduct.
“He made a comment that the officer accused him of having drugs in the car,” Brown told WPDE. “He said that his wife and grandchild was in the car. He asked them not to move because the officer looked as if he might shoot them or something.”
“He also made mention that the officer continued to ask him about his neighborhood,” Brown added. “Why was he in that neighborhood? And threaten[ed] to put him in jail in reference to something dealing with the registration to the vehicle.”
Brown added that he was "shocked" when he viewed the video, and lamented the idea that "someone who is supposed to be a community leader, a pastor, and head of the NAACP would just come out and tell a blatant lie."
So what's happening now?
Timmonsville, South Carolina's local NAACP chapter is apparently displeased with the findings on the video — and Moultrie himself is now claiming that two officers conducted the traffic stop in question, and it was the other one who reportedly racially profiled him.
WPDE released a Wednesday statement from the NAACP which revealed that the org was embarking on their own investigation into the alleged incident.
In response to questioning by the NAACP’s Regional Field Office regarding an account of the traffic stop he posted on social media, the branch president, Rev. Jerrod Moultrie, addressed apparent contradictions between the body cam footage released by the Timmonsville Police Department and his social media account of the incident. Rev. Moultrie asserted that two different police officers questioned him after his car was stopped in the subdivision in which he resides.
According to Rev. Moultrie, the body cam footage captures the arrival of the second police cruiser on the scene, but does not capture his interaction with the officer who conducted the initial stop – in a separate vehicle – and who interacted with Rev. Moultrie before the second police cruiser arrived.
The NAACP is continuing its internal investigation and seeking the full disclosure of all relevant information regarding the incident involving Rev. Moultrie and the Timmonsville Police Department.
The NAACP also takes this opportunity to counter misleading assumptions about racial profiling in the context of traffic stops. Racial profiling, in this context, concerns the reasons for stopping a particular vehicle at a particular time, not whether the officer conducting the stop (or any other officer on the scene) is impolite. In the incident involving Rev. Moultrie, the officer in the body cam footage states that the reason for the stop was the driver’s failure to signal for a turn. Whether that justification is a pretext for racial discrimination is an issue separate and distinct from whether any officer displayed racial bias against Rev. Moultrie during the stop.
WPDE reported that Police Chief Brown, however, said Moultrie's account is wrong once again.
WPDE reported that Brown said a South Carolina Highway Patrol Trooper stopped to officer assistance during the stop — as is fairly customary — but that the Highway Patrol Trooper allegedly never left the doorway of his cruiser.
"[The second trooper] never left the doorway," Brown said. "He had no contact with Moultrie at all. Now, and it's common sense, anybody who has ever been stopped by law enforcement, and there have been times where there was a backup officer."
"But, give me a case where one officer will come and ask for your credentials, deal with you, and after he finishes with you, another officer comes up and ask for your credentials again, and deal with you again," Brown explained. "It just doesn't happen that way. It doesn't work that way."
Brown emphasized that the original video footage showed the entire interaction between Moultrie and the officers.
"The video tells everything," Brown said. "The video tells you who had dealings with Moultrie. The video tells you who, what he claimed happened and what didn't happen. And the video would clearly tell you that there was only one officer who approached Moultrie."
Brown also disputes that the NAACP chapter is conducting a fair investigation.
"How do you conduct an investigation and you don't contact the agency that it involves? We have heard nothing from the NAACP. Nothing whatsoever," Brown said. "What should've been done was contact me, let's look at the video. Let's come to some type of conclusion. Our apology whatever to the officer, to the community, and let's move on, instead of continuing trying to cover. Because that's exactly what it is. The video speaks for itself. We don't have to say one word."