On my visit to Mobile, Alabama on June 3, I had the pleasure of meeting Chikesia Clemons who has been going through a difficult time as a result of a police assault and arrest that never should have happened.
Chikesia went to a Waffle House two blocks from her home in Saraland, Alabama on April 22, 2018 to order out a meal. The trouble began when she asked for plastic utensils. The staff said it would cost 50 cents, which they had never charged before. Words were exchanged and Chikesia asked for the phone number of the district manager. Meanwhile, the staff called the police.
As one can see this video recorded by her friend Canita Adams, Chikesia was sitting down waiting for the district manager’s phone number when the police arrived. An officer grabbed her by the neck and arms and wrestled her to the ground. Her breast was exposed as she asked “What are you doing?” and one of the officers responds, “I’ll break your arm, that’s what I’m about to do.”
The police charged Chikesia with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. She was found guilty by the judge in a bench trial in Saraland Municipal Court on July 23, 2018. The judge ordered her to pay a $200 fine plus court fees for each charge. He sentenced her to 10 days in prison which would be suspended if she did one year of informal probation. Chikesia expected as much. Saraland is a 90% white suburb of Mobile.
Chikesia appealed and will have jury trial in the Mobile Circuit Court this summer beginning on August 19, 2019. She expects to be exonerated when all the evidence is presented to a jury.
Canita Adams’ video went viral, leading to national media coverage, commentary by columnist Shaun King, a fundraising visit by Rev. Al Sharpton, and legal representation by Attorney Benjamin Crump, who is well-known for his advocacy for the families of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Color of Change circulated a petition calling for the charges to be dropped that received 50,000 signatures.
Chikesia has paid a heavy economic and emotional toll since the incident occurred. She lost her job and has not been able to find another because of the controversy surrounding her case and her conviction. She had to move a couple of times to get away from harassment by neighbors. She is struggling to take care of herself and her six-year-old daughter, who has had to deal with comments from her classmates.
Proper policing would have de-escalated the situation instead of moving immediately to arrest Chikesia without even hearing her side of the story. Chikesia presented no threat to anyone. This incident is a case of policing based on maximizing tickets and arrests instead of building community relationships, solving problems with the community, and de-escalating conflicts.
The superiority of the relationship-building and problem-solving approach to policing was demonstrated in Richmond, California under the administration of Gayle McLauglin, a Green mayor. She hired Chris Magnus as police chief to implement this policing approach combined with diversifying the police force and intensive social programs and counseling focused on the most at-ris members of the Richmond community. Richmond, an 80% people of color city of about 100,000, had had one of the highest murder rates in the country for decades. Over the 8 years of this policing and social services program, the murder rate was cut in half, officer-involved shootings reduced to nearly zero, and property and violence crimes radically reduced.
Chikesia is asking supporters in the Mobile area to come to the trial on August 19. You can support Chikesia with a contribution to the Go Fund Me site, Help Support Chikesia Clemons. Supporters will be posting updates on Twitter and Instagram during the trial.