When Jody Westby saw that the D.C. police officer had put on her blue latex gloves, she knew Dennis Stucky “was in danger,” Westby told Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s “PoliticsNation.”
“I knew Dennis was in danger. And I knew that this was a wrong situation and that they had no probable cause to be stopping him,” Westby said. “I just immediately went into a response mode and tried to defend him and protect him from this situation that I knew was not appropriate or legal.”
Stucky, a 64-year-old African-American who assists residents with gardening, other maintenance jobs and is disabled, was carrying two bags and talking to a gardener when he was spotted by D.C. police on Oct. 1, Westby told Sharpton. Police were responding to a robbery call when they stopped Stucky, who has been working in the affluent neighborhood for more than 30 years.
“Her presumption was that he was guilty, even though he wasn’t, and that’s just not how our country works,” Westby said.
Westby’s housekeeper had notified her that Stucky was being questioned by police. When she stepped out of her home and saw him sitting on the floor, Westby informed police of Stucky’s role in the community. The officer ignored her and that’s when Westby asked her housekeeper to record the incident on her cell phone.
“I’m an attorney and this is wrong. Now please leave our neighborhood,” Westby told police on the video.
Jody Westby and Dennis Stucky, who both appeared yesterday on “PoliticsNation,” received national attention when the cell phone video was posted online by The Washington Post.
“She saved my pride,” Stucky told Sharpton. “And I appreciate what she did for me.”
The video shows Westby brazenly approaching the second officer, who was sitting in the police car, to inquire about the address of the reported robbery.
“We’re videotaping this. Come on Dennis — he said you can go,” Westby said.
Alleged police misconduct has become a national issue in the two months since 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson. Amateur videos recording police stops have been widely published from Indiana, California and most recently, New York. These videos are providing context for a renewed national conversation on proper policing, in what has been referred to as the “Ferguson Effect.” Yet while other videos are usually accompanied by an altercation or frisking, this video is distinguished by the fact that another citizen intervened.
“It’s a powerful video with a very different ending. Many, many others that we’ve seen have not ended this way,” Sharpton said of the video.
But it may be too soon to determine whether these videos will serve as a catalyst for better relationships between police and communities.
“It’s gonna be a struggle right now,” said Dr. Cedric Alexander, national president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement, said. “But clearly what’s emerging in this country is this continued, here again, separation between police and community.”
“Well, I think it begins with an honest dialogue and I think we need a lot more Jodys in this world,” Sharpton said of Westby.