West Hartford Police are defending the actions of an officer who has been accused of racial profiling by former MLB player Doug Glanville.
The allegations were made public on Monday in a column by Glanville but date back to Feb. 18, 2014, when the unidentified officer was investigating a complaint of a suspicious male on Concord Street.
According to police, the complainant reported that a black male in his 40’s, wearing a brown jacket and carrying a snow shovel, had knocked on her neighbor’s door. The caller told police that the neighbors had issues in the recent past with a black male who had solicited money for shoveling snow.
While the officer was investigating on Feb. 18, a police dispatcher advised him that a party who matched the description was last seen heading east on Fern Street, crossing Prospect Avenue into neighboring Hartford.
Police said the West Hartford officer properly moved in that direction and observed a man matching the description shoveling a driveway in the area of Fern Street and North Beacon Street in Hartford — Connecticut's capital city.
The officer exited his vehicle and asked the man, who was later found to be Glanville, if he had been seeking work shoveling driveways.
Glanville describes the encounter this way, in a column entitled "I Was Racially Profiled in My Own Driveway," published on The Atlantic:
"A police officer from West Hartford had pulled up across the street, exited his vehicle, and begun walking in my direction. I noted the strangeness of his being in Hartford—an entirely separate town with its own police force—so I thought he needed help. He approached me with purpose, and then, without any introduction or explanation he asked, 'So, you trying to make a few extra bucks, shoveling people’s driveways around here?'"
"When Mr. Glanville advised that he had not, the officer then departed," according to a press release issued by the West Hartford Police Department on April 15. "The officer took it on face value that Mr. Glanville was not the correct person and immediately left the scene."
Glanville, an Ivy League university graduate who played for the Chicago Cubs and is now working as an analyst for Bristol, Conn.-based ESPN, lives in a Tudor-style home in Hartford.
"All of this had put me in an extremely vulnerable situation," Glanville writes. "In one moment, I went from being an ordinary father and husband, carrying out a simple household chore, to a suspect offering a defense. The inquiry had forced me to check my tone, to avoid sounding smug even when I was stating the obvious: that I was shoveling the driveway because the house belonged to me."
Meanwhile, West Hartford Police said another man matching the description of the solicitor was located at the intersection of South Highland Street and Farmington Avenue in West Hartford on that February day. He was found to be the male in question, police said, and was given a verbal warning for soliciting.
"While the officer’s actions in searching for the suspicious party were completely appropriate, we wish he had taken the extra time to introduce himself to Mr. Glanville and to explain the purpose of the question," the press release from West Hartford Police Department states. "We have discussed this with the officer and will work to remind all of our officers of the importance of good interpersonal skills and taking time, when practical, to explain their actions."
The department also said Police Chief Tracey Gove has personally been in regular contact with Mr. Glanville since his reporting of the incident — a fact that Glanville noted, too.
West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka has, as well.
"It's unacceptable and it never should have happened," Slifka told the Hartford Courant. "It's not who we are as a town. It greatly pains me that we'd be painted in this light, but unfortunately it happened, it's true."
Glanville indicates that his encounter is emblematic of a larger problem that he says continues to plague West Hartford, Hartford and, perhaps, towns and cities throughout the United States.
"In reaching out for understanding, I learned that there is a monumental wall separating these towns. It is built with the bricks of policy, barbed by racially charged anecdotes, and cemented by a fierce suburban protectionism that works to safeguard a certain way of life."