ACLU sues University City over failure to comply ordinance related to arrest of African-American male

UNIVERSITY CITY, MO - The ACLU of Missouri has filed a lawsuit against the University City Police Department over a pedestrian stop and arrest.  The suit alleges 55-year-old Clarence Graham was unlawfully arrested in March of 2016.

Graham did odd jobs in the 6300 block of McPherson but was ordered to explain his presence in the affluent neighborhood after police received a call for a suspicious African-American male, according to the ACLU.  The lawsuit contends Graham was targeted because of his race.

“He was wearing a different color shirt, he was wearing different colored pants, and he was decades different than the estimated age of the person who was looking in some windows,” said ACLU of Missouri Legal Director Tony Rothert.

Graham yelled for help when an officer rushed towards him and was eventually tackled to the ground, according to the ACLU.

Graham was arrested for failure to comply with the order to identify himself.  He was jailed for 7 hours but released and never charged, according to Rothert. The ACLU believes the University City ordinance regarding failure to comply is too vague.

“When they are ordering you to stop and requiring you to provide information, there has to be some reason to believe that a crime had been committed and that you’re the one who committed it,” said Rothert.

The lawsuit seeks to find the ordinance unconstitutional.  Graham is also seeking damages for his arrest.  Rothert said Missouri requires police departments to keep race statistics regarding traffic stops but not pedestrian stops.  He believes keeping statistics regarding pedestrian stops could be helpful in determining whether minorities are being unfairly targeted.

The lawsuit was filed late Wednesday.  The University City Police Department did not immediately respond with a comment.