By: KARMA ALLEN and MARC NATHANSON, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — After Florida deputies detained an innocent Black man who they say fit the description of an accused burglar, body camera footage showed the man and the officers chatting about the sensitive state of race relations — and the encounter left such an impression on the county sheriff that he’s arranged to have the man assist his department with its implicit bias training.
Joseph Griffin was out jogging late last month in Deltona, about 30 miles north of Orlando, when deputies pulled up in a squad car alongside him and told him he fit the description of a suspect in a nearby burglary, according to the video released by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.
Officers apologized to Griffin but said they had to detain him while they checked a surveillance photo of the suspect to make sure it wasn’t him. Griffin had been livestreaming the encounter on his phone, and one of the officers volunteered to hold his phone to continue the stream while Griffin was placed in handcuffs.
While waiting for the information on the suspect to come in, bodycam video showed Griffin and the deputies talking about the situation.
“Seven cop cars [are here], and I was just jogging down the street,” Griffin says at one point, his hands cuffed behind his back.
“But we don’t know that for sure, you know? You gotta see it through our eyes,” says one deputy who appears to be black.
A little while later, the deputy tells Griffin, “We appreciate you being very cooperative. Other people would just…”
“I’m trying not to get shot over this,” Griffin replies with a nervous laugh.
“Me neither,” the deputy appears to say on the video. “I know things are going on … I’m right there with ya.”
Griffin, who told officers he was a military veteran, was released after deputies confirmed from surveillance images that the suspect wasn’t him.
“Everyone’s a little on edge right now so I just want to say thank you,” another deputy, who is white, tells Griffin on the video after he’s released. “Not everyone is that understanding and respectful.”
“Thank you,” said Griffin, then later: “I definitely appreciate that.”
Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood posted the full video to social media, prompting some angry users to claim racial profiling. Disputing claims that his deputies did anything wrong, Chitwood in a statement commended both his deputies and Griffin.
“We detained a guy who was just out jogging, but who unfortunately fit the initial suspect description,” Chitwood wrote. “I just want to say how proud I am of the deputies who handled this call. Granted, nothing like Facebook Live existed when I was starting out, but I don’t know if a young Mike Chitwood would have kept a live video running for somebody I was detaining. These guys did it because in that moment, they understood what it meant to Mr. Griffin, who was going out of his way to be cooperative and respectful. Everyone involved in this deserves recognition for a job well done.”
As a result, Chitwood said, he had invited Griffin to assist in his department’s training.
“Joseph Griffin is going to come out and join us during implicit bias training, and tell this story from his perspective. I think we can all learn from his point of view, just like he has listened to ours,” he wrote. “Mr. Griffin is a military veteran and a medical professional, and I told him we’d train and hire him as a deputy in a second if he ever wants a new job.”
Chitwood said that after the encounter, deputies were able to identify and arrest the suspect they were looking for.
“To all who responded so quickly and got the actual suspect in custody before he broke into someone else’s property, YOU are the reason crime is down in Deltona,” he wrote. “When we respond to this kind of burglary with the same sense of urgency as any other call, we see the results in a safer community.”
“Thank you again to every deputy and to Joseph Griffin, and to all of you who can see that both perspectives deserve a look,” Chitwood wrote.
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