• Wed. May 18th, 2022

Black real estate photographer files complaint after he is questioned by officers when White neighbors complain

The photographer, Marlon Crutchfield, is also a former U.S. Capitol Police officer, Army veteran and licensed real estate agent. While he was sitting in his car waiting for his appointment in the Foxcroft Heights neighborhood adjacent to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, one White man asked him what he was doing and then alerted base security to Crutchfield’s presence, while a White woman also watched him until he went inside to begin capturing photos, Crutchfield said Monday.

When Arlington officers arrived, Crutchfield agreed to step outside and speak with them. But when one of the officers asked for Crutchfield’s identification, he grew irate and began recording the episode. Two more police vehicles arrived on the scene as the two officers questioning Crutchfield walked away, the video shows. The encounter ended after about four minutes, Arlington police said. Crutchfield was not arrested.

“There’s an honest conversation that America needs to have with itself,” Crutchfield, 48, said. “I’ve lived my whole life trying to do what’s right. This was a smack in the face.”

Arlington police said that on the morning of Dec. 21, they dispatched the two officers “to the report of a suspicious person and vehicle” on South Orme Street and that “the reporting party advised that the male subject had been taking photos of the Southgate entrance to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall.” The police issued a statement saying they “take our responsibility to protect our diverse and inclusive community willingly and without reservation.”

Crutchfield said he never got out of his car or walked anywhere near the base’s gate and was not taking any photos from his car. The base has a policy prohibiting photography of its access points, though they can be seen from all angles on Google Maps. He said the White neighbor asked why he was taking photos of a resident’s house, but Crutchfield said he had only raised the camera to his eye to check its battery. He said he stayed inside his BMW 3 Series car until entering his client’s home.

The two Arlington officers asked him why he was there, then asked for his identification.

“That’s when I really got upset,” Crutchfield said. “If you take someone’s ID, that’s in lieu of detaining them.” The video, which Crutchfield posted Dec. 23, shows the officers backing down as Crutchfield challenges their request while another real estate agent accuses them of racism.

The head of the Arlington NAACP, Julius D. Spain Sr., said he was “taken aback” by the police position that they were investigating a suspicious person. He said he would seek a meeting with Arlington Commonwealth’s Attorney Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and “if someone needs to be charged with making a false report, so be it.”

Crutchfield said in his complaint that “the neighbor who called the police lied about me taking pictures of the military base nearby to trigger a police response.” He said that being questioned by police in front of a client was humiliating and that “frivolous abuse of emergency services to humiliate, embarrass and incite fear in upstanding Black citizens must be taken more seriously.”