The Plano Police Department is facing local and nationwide criticism for its handling of a welfare check that resulted in the Feb. 16 arrest of a Black teenager.
Rodney Reese, 18, was stopped by two officers while walking home from a work shift at Walmart. Police say officers were initially dispatched after someone called and expressed concern that he was stumbling through snowy weather while wearing a short-sleeve shirt.
Body cam footage released by Plano police showed that officers followed him for two minutes, 17 seconds, asking Reese if he needed help or wanted a ride home. Reese repeatedly declined these offers and became increasingly annoyed as officers continued pressing him on the matter.
One of the officers then warned Reese, “You’re walking in the middle of the road,” to which he responded, “I understand that. My bad.”
Fifty-nine seconds after this warning, another officer said sternly, “We’re doing an investigation,” to which Reese responded, “I don’t care; I’m going home.” It was at this point that the officer told him, “You are officially detained.”
As police handcuffed Reese, he asked that they let him go, to which the arresting officer replied, “Wow, you’re really making this worse right now.”
Police arrested Reese on one count of pedestrian on roadway, a class C misdemeanor. Reese spent the night in jail and was later released on personal bond. Plano Police Chief Ed Drain announced in a statement that the department was dropping the charges, adding, “The arrest wasn’t consistent with the reason officers were there, to provide assistance.”
Still, civil rights activists are arguing that this arrest was racially motivated, a claim which Drain, a Black man, told reporters he didn’t believe.
The Collin County chapter for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called for an internal investigation into the matter, while the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas said in a tweet, “The criminal legal system is functioning exactly how it was designed — to oppress and harm Black people. There is no justice in harassing and arresting a teenager walking home from work during the #TexasFreeze. Rodney Reese should've been taken home.”
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere, also a Black man, addressed the incident in a Plano City Council meeting Monday.
“When incidents occur, we are accountable,” he said. “We will continue to assure that all police officers have the training and the resources to maintain the level of excellence expected from them to keep our community safe and to keep them safe as well.”
He continued, “I’ll say this, as an African American man that was in situations like this as a young man … we respect and trust of our police officers and, at the same time, expect the highest level of professionalism. This incident highlights an opportunity for us and the entire community to realize we all can do better in strengthening the relationship between police and the African American community. We are committed to understanding what we could have done better and how we can move forward in a constructive manner. Communication and dialogue is important and we look forward to better outcomes in the future."
This arrest comes months into a wave of racial unrest stemming from the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Reese has stated that the former's death has made him more nervous in the presence of law enforcement.
An administrative inquiry into Reese's arrest is being conducted, Drain said.
This story is developing.