The Beverly Hills Police Department has launched an internal review of its policies and procedures after television producer Charles Belk accused the department of mistreatment, police announced Thursday.
“We are taking these allegations very seriously,” said Beverly Hills Police Chief David Snowden in a statement obtained by TheWrap. “We (BHPD) take pride in the professionalism of our department and the high quality service that we provide to those who live, work and visit our community.”
Chief Snowden also admitted that he regrets how Belk’s detention was handled. “The arrest of Mr. Belk was lawful and proper based on the information known to the officers in the field at the time of the arrest,” he said. “However, we should have done a better job once Mr. Belk was taken into custody.”
The incident happened on Friday near Wilshire and La Cienega Boulevards. Belk has said he was walking down the street to check the time on his parking meter when he was suddenly detained.
The incident began to make headlines after Belk, whose credits include “The Greatest Song” and “Douglass U,” wrote in a Facebook post that he was “innocently walking” from a restaurant to his car shortly after 5 p.m. when “my freedom was taken from me by the Beverly Hills Police Department.”
He has since made multiple television appearances and recently wrote on his Facebook page that “the BHPD and the mayor of Beverly Hills have gone into Crisis Prevention mode” with their responses to his claims.
In an interview with TheWrap shortly after he was detained, the TV producer alleged that the Beverly Hills PD refused to initially explain why he was taken into custody. “An officer on a motorcycle pulled up next to me and asked me to come over to him,” Belk explained. “He asked to see my identification and asked me to sit on the curb.” According to Belk, five or six more officers arrived a few minutes later.
He claims he didn’t get an explanation until a police lieutenant arrived on the scene. The lieutenant told him there had been an armed robbery at a nearby Citibank and Belk fit the description of the robber. “Same color shirt, same color pants,” Belk said the officer revealed, adding that the suspect was a “tall, bald headed, black male.”
Belk also claimed officers didn’t read him his Miranda rights, and said he was jailed for more than six hours without being allowed to make a phone call. “I was booked, fingerprinted, given a blanket, a sheet, toothpaste and put in a cell,” he told TheWrap, adding that more indignities followed. “They took my belt, my shoes, my wallet … the whole incident kind of rattled me,” Belk said. He also claimed he feared for his life.
“The Ferguson and New York situations all resonated in my mind,” the 51-year-old said, referring to the deaths of unarmed African-Americans Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner, who died after a white police officer put him in a chokehold in Staten Island. “I did not want to give them any reason to question my interest in cooperating.”
The police department later admitted that Belk’s detention was a case of mistaken identity, but said eyewitnesses had identified him during a field show-up. The man Belk was mistaken for is still at large, but police caught his accomplice, who they believe is the “Purse Packing Bandit,” a woman involved in multiple robberies around the Los Angeles area.
Belk has been extremely vocal in criticizing the department for detaining him for six hours. But Beverly Hills mayor Lili Bosse said she supports the police department’s handling of the ongoing case.
“I am very proud of our police department for the arrest of the alleged ‘Purse Packing Bandit,’ who likely has robbed so many other banks in the Los Angeles area,” she said in a statement. “It is extremely unfortunate that an innocent bystander was mistakenly identified as a suspect. However, because of this positive identification and because multiple law enforcement agencies were involved, a thorough and lengthy investigation was absolutely necessary.”