Video of Dyer police frisking black males who were helping a friend’s broken-down truck prompts calls for investigation
A local activist group is seeking answers from Town of Dyer officials over a June 6 incident in which Dyer police were recorded frisking a group of young African-American men who were tending to a broken-down truck.
Two members of Black Lives Matter-Gary voiced their concerns during the Thursday night Dyer Town Council meeting. BLM organizer Kim McGee called for town officials, as well as Dyer police, to issue an apology to the young men for “acting in a manner which threatened their safety without cause.”
“These encounters, in which the civilians had no weapon and were not threatening police, have often ended in bloodshed and death,” McGee said. “As with the cases of Levar Jones of South Carolina, and Daniel Harris of North Carolina, and many more, these officers in Dyer, Indiana, took an immediate aggressive posture toward these youth. When one of them correctly asserted his rights, he was handcuffed and sat on the ground.”
McGee additionally asked the town for an independent investigation into the incident, to which Council President Jeff Dekker said the town is conducting its own.
“An investigation is currently underway into the incident,” he said, adding the council would have no further comment until it’s completed.
The two-minute video, which was posted to social media June 6, shows five young black men standing with their hands up against the back of the SUV they were reportedly pushing off U.S. 30 into a BP gas station parking lot. A Dyer officer was frisking them and at one point leans in close to one of the men as if he were talking into his ear, the video shows. Where the men were from isn’t clear in the video.
Shortly after that, the video shows the officer handcuffing the young man and sitting him down on front of a police SUV. The man didn’t resist, the video shows.
A second officer appeared as the first officer finished frisking the other men. The officer then allowed the men to relax after he was done frisking them, and they appeared to start telling the officer what they were doing, according to the video, which was posted on a Facebook page.
The distance from which the video was shot didn’t pick up what either the officers or the young men were saying. Neither the young men nor the officers appeared to act aggressively toward each other, the video shows.
There were no arrests.
Dyer Metropolitan Police Chief David Hein confirmed Friday that the investigation is ongoing and that the department takes officer complaints seriously. He said the department has spoken with the people involved and instructed them how to file a complaint against the officer.
So far, they haven’t, he said.
“The complaint is so uncharacteristic for us and the town, but if there’s something that needs to be addressed, we need to know about it and will fix it,” Hein said, adding that the department is working on getting body cams for officers.
BLM member Michaela Spanenburg, of Gary, told the council that as a mixed-race person, she grew up watching family members receive similar treatment at the hands of officers.
“I found the video really disturbing,” she said. “It made me feel unsafe for me and my spouse, and I really hope you take this seriously.”
The Dyer Police Department on June 7 posted the following message to its social media page: “Dyer Police Department is aware of a video that has been posted depicting a portion of an encounter involving officers and (five) adults on the roadside. At the conclusion of the encounter there were no tickets issued, no arrests made, and the officer assisted in getting the vehicle further off the roadway in a safe place.”
The department page appears to have since been deactivated.
Michelle L. Quinn is a freelance reporter for the Post-Tribune.
The Latinx experience chronicled
Get the Latinx Files newsletter for stories that capture the multitudes within our communities.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.